The excellently-named I Can Hear Myself Levitate has dropped a new EP, A City Submerged. While it does retain elements of the radio-friendly rock mashup sound I reviewed so favorably last May, ICHML has pushed its own boundaries in song construction since their last outing.
These four tunes skew much more toward a tension-filled post-hardcore (a la the soon-to-be-broken up The Felix Culpa). Even though the band has largely eschewed traditional v/c/v song structure (or at least masked it quite well), the poppier moments of the sound like the artier moments of AFI’s more recent albums. Opener “Saints and Converts” takes familiar sounds and spins them in delightfully unexpected ways, playing with audience expectations. “Empires” employs a similar tactic, although it does ratchet up to a huge ending with a whoa-oh male chorus. But by that point, it’s what you want to hear!
If you’re not into the emo/punk/post-hardcore sound ca. 2000-2006, you aren’t the audience for I Can Hear Myself Levitate. If you did come of age on dime-a-dozen emo/punk bands, you’ll love A City Submerged. At four tunes and 14 minutes, it’s exactly the right length to enjoy legitimately and fully (nostalgically or currently) without losing interest. I Can Hear Myself Levitate, like A Road to Damascus, is a band that reminds me why played-out sounds became overdone in the first place: when done well, those sounds can light me up with adrenaline.
There are residual benefits to not listening to the radio. I don’t get overexposed to songs, so I never tire of good tunes (I still love “I’m Yours” by Jazon Mraz months after people can’t take it anymore; ditto for “Hey Soul Sister” and “Beautiful” by Akon). I also never get burned out on genres. If you’re making good pop-punk, I’m still able to rock out to it; I haven’t been burned out by its overexposure on radio.
Which is probably why I’m so enamored with I Can Hear Myself Levitate’s EP What is Left. ICHML has a sound that incorporates AFI’s darkly theatrical musical bent, Coheed and Cambria’s prog leanings, the high-pitched vocal preenings of Fall Out Boy and a low-slung form of guitar-centric rock’n’roll. They even dabble in some post-hardcore at points during the album. If heard with an uninterested ear, it wouldn’t sound much different than anything else on radio. The ear would hear the chunky guitars in the choruses and dismiss everything else that’s happening. And that’s sad, because ICHML have a lot more to offer than simple Boys Like Girls/Angels and Airwaves songs.
Take “Body Heat,” for example. The song sets up a distinct mood from the get-go, setting up the fast-paced drums against a moody, wiry guitar line. They pump it up for the chorus, but they never let the mood of the song change from an insistent, dark, patient piece. Mega props to the guitarist for not letting the song change mood. Its unique feel even amongst the tunes here gives it “standout track” moniker. “The Artifacts” plays with similar moods, but it doesn’t do it as effectively, as the song relies on the vocals instead of the guitars to create the mood. The vocals are great, but the evocative and pensive type of vocalist is not the type of vocalist they possess. Thankfully, they catch this by the end of the song and feature some tight guitar work in the back half of the tune.
“Eskimo Kiss” features jagged, intricate, organized rhythms against a smooth vocal line; the juxtaposition is immediately memorable. The vocal antics are especially memorable here as well; you can almost see the vocalist leaning out into the crowd and gesturing wildly. It’s another excellent song.
What is Left is a great EP. I Can Hear Myself Levitate presents a good snapshot of who they are and what they can do. The only thing I can particularly complain about is that the vocal style is very much a love it or hate it proposition. From beginning to end, they show instrumental chops, songwriting skill, creative energy and passion. What else could you want out of a rock band? Not much. If I Can Hear Myself Levitate gets to the right ears, we could have a serious contender on our hands. Watch for them.
Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of instrumental music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.