Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Kings and an Untruth

March 21, 2009

It took me a little longer than usual to write this review. I downloaded the Lie To Me EP by Kingsbury, unzipped it, and added the album to my music library. Once it started playing, I threw it on repeat. I do this because first, I want to listen to an album as much as I can before passing judgment, and second, I like to take notes while I’m listening.  Hearing each song multiple times lets me be pretty thorough in that regard. After that, well, suddenly it was three hours later. I’d totally gotten lost in the music, and managed to listen to the album seven times straight through without writing a single word.

There’s a pretty good reason for this. Kingsbury is dark indie rock. It’s somber and chock-full of emotion. The instrumentals are simple, mostly relying on piano and guitar, along with some synth and percussion. Vocals are soft and melancholy, with appropriate lyrics to back that up. Any one song won’t blow your mind, but as a whole, well, that’s another matter entirely.

Lie To Me opens with “Ocarina Mountaintop,” a post-rock, instrumental piece that sets the mood quite nicely. It grows somewhat over the course of the song, taking on a sound that’s something like This Will Destroy You, but without ever really hitting a loud or defining moment. The album then flows seamlessly into “Back in the Orange Grove,” building on the previous number with vocals that intone, “I’ll never go / back in the orange grove.” I love frontman Bruce Reed’s voice; he conveys quite a bit without using a ton of range or volume. Kingsbury defines itself with slow, rolling music that has body and depth to it.

The album continues with “As I See It” and “Lie To Me,” both of which hold their value in their lyrics. Stuff like “Everything has got to be just like I want it / Everything has got to be as I see it /  Everybody in the world has to care” from the former and, “The deeper we go, the higher we are / No one can say if you take this too far” from the latter are priceless, if only because the real meaning of each song lies in what goes unsaid. The music itself just serves to emphasize and reinforce the emotional impact of the words. “Lie To Me” feels like the darkest song on the album, though it does so quietly, instead of getting all death and destruction and mayhem on you.

All the parts here work well together and contribute to the overall tone. The songs are long, but it works for them. This is one of those albums that’s a continuous experience; each song seems to melt into the next. I want to describe the sound as haunting, but that’s cliché, and I use it too much to describe music. Maybe regretful or remorseful is better.

This album is strong, but it’s because of Kingsbury’s restraint, not because of loud guitar riffs or bombastic lyrics. The moderately repetitive instrumental and vocal parts are what bring home the emotional impact of the EP. For this I say well done, Kingsbury. They created an album that I’ve really enjoyed, and they’ve earned my respect as artists. If you want to hear the Lie To Me EP, it’s available online as a free download at http://www.kingsburymusic.net/audio/released_mp3s/lie_to_me.zip

Kingsbury-The Great Compromise, Full-Length Album.

February 1, 2007

Band Name: Kingsbury

Album Name: The Great Compromise, Full-Length Album.

Best Element: The struggle of deep themes, and their artful interpretation through words and music.

Genre: Indie/Psychedelic/Rock.

Website: http://www.myspace.com/kingsbury, http://www.kingsburymusic.net.

Label Name: http://www.postrecords.com. Post Records.

Email: kingsburymusic@hotmail.com.

There is no way one can simply listen to Kingsbury’s latest release The Great Compromise. One must wrestle with it; swim, gasping, through the waves of its emotional ocean; and, if lucky, crawl up onto dry land again…

…Or maybe it would be better to drown in its embrace. The Great Compromise is Kingsbury’s debut full-length album, and after listening repeatedly, I was taken aback. Their sound is altogether too mature and crafted for this to be a first full-length record; however, considering that they spent more than a year’s time hashing out, recording, and finishing this album, one can begin to believe Kingsbury was able to create such a work.

This album deserves more than a cursory listen and five hundred words.

Musically, Kingsbury’s The Great Compromise straddles the darker side of indie-rock, infuses the enervated American psychedelic movement with fresh life and dabbles in both classic rock and classical accompaniment. Bruce Reed seems intent on constructing each song spatially, as though he wants listeners to walk through them, inevitably emerging not completely certain of his or her surroundings.

“The Corpse”—the album’s first track—drifts into existence as a dirge: the weeping of violins followed by an orchestral drum section and a light, martial snare. The subject matter is fittingly matched to the tones, as the lyrics open by describing a room where “the power is out, the power is out,” and we are confronted with a deteriorating corpse on the couch. And when it seems nearly too much, a simple piano melody counteracts the death-march, as Bruce Reed’s minimalist, more-air-than-words voice offers an interlude of hope: “All I ever wanted was to help while you were lost. / My brother take the help when it’s offered next time you’re lost.”

The song ends on a major chord, snatching hope from the overwhelming musical and lyrical bleakness. It is from the artful struggle between these themes of hope and loss, decay and light that Kingsbury swirls up tunes from a seemingly measureless emotional abyss.

The album’s title track begins as a stripped-down acoustic stroll, builds as panned guitars climb out of and descend again into the mix. A hesitant keyboard melody accompanies the chorus duet of Reed and Alexis Hamlin-Vogler as they sing: “And if I will dance, will you swallow me, consume my soul? / If I smile will you torture me, turn my body cold? Oh no.”

It is this sort of tension that allows the individual songs to take shape and project space; a thoroughly post-modern art concept applied to a medium (indie-rock, in particular) not completely comfortable with its infringement.

Who is to say comfort is always a good thing?

Hope and despair, uncertainty and devotion, child-like trust and brutality… Kingsbury is one of the few bands out there willing to tread water in such seas. Fortunately, this album sails through unscathed—if not stronger—from the voyage.

Tim Avery

the_kitchen_sinks@yahoo.com

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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