It took a few plays of The Vision of a Dying World’s EP I Will Not Fear What I Don’t Understand for it to grow on me – surprising, I thought, because it came to me so highly recommended. But once this EP started to sink in, its roots grew deep.
Perhaps somewhat strangely, I Will Not Fear reminds me a lot of the city I (currently) live in: Norman, Oklahoma. The EP is little (a short five songs), but substantial, like the semi-small town of Norman, which feels a lot smaller than it is. The EP blends in nicely with its roots and contemporaries of folk and country, but definitely still stands out. There are some decidedly Woody Guthrie-esque (and thus, Bob Dylan-esque) moments, but enough modernity that I could easily imagine it played in one of Norman’s arty coffee shops and hangouts. There’s a certain fuzziness in the recording that might make one think of continually windy weather. And I, too, had to warm up to Norman a little before falling in love with it.
“Do I Have To Stay Here Alone (Big White Clouds)” opens I Will Not Fear with a woody graininess, topped with a little sharpness in lead vocals that balances with full-sounding harmonies that actually sound like big white clouds, if that’s not too big a stretch of the imagination. The even-paced airy choruses blend the pieces together nicely.
“Heart in Seven” is more uptempo, but it doesn’t lose the “down home”/DIY/basement-in-a-prairie-home feel because of its simple instrumentation and echo-y reverb. The excellently-named “And the Truth Shall Let You Be or Brain vs. Heart” is the musical equivalent of a wavy line, with both soaring and dipping moments, pulling you along gently until suddenly you’re there with the band at the end, wishing it wasn’t quite over yet and wondering how you got there.
Of all the others on the EP, the song “Mantra/What Is and What Is Not” is definitely the most epic. It seems to have several movements, one sounding big and orchestral and another that emphasizes Fleet Foxes-like backup vocals.
I Will Not Fear What I Don’t Understand ends with a cover of Cake’s “Mexico,” but in The Vision of a Dying World’s revamping of the song, even a Cake fan might not recognize it.
Hopefully after this metaphor-heavy review, the reader will take a strong liking to The Vision of a Dying World’s EP I Will Not Fear What I Don’t Understand much sooner than I did.
The Vision of a Dying World – Receives A Skelephone Call From The Eastern Side EP
Single Screen Records
Unique and fun folk-rock that keeps pace with previous releases.
The Vision of a Dying World Receives A Skelephone Call From The Eastern Side EP marks the third release from the San Diego-based folk-rock outfit that I’ve reviewed, so I figured there was little to surprise me here.
Plain and simple: I love to listen to it, just as I’ve loved listening to previous releases. However, I was surprised that they didn’t surprise me.
The band changed up their sound between 2006’s What You Are To Be You Now Become and 2007’s And The Grammar Lamb from a bizarre folk-indie to a slightly less bizarre folk-rock. I love both styles, but hearing the band rocking out in the latter release was a pleasant change from the rather lethargic sound of the earlier release.
With the new EP, they stick with the sound heard in And The Grammar Lamb. Admittedly, it was both welcome and a disappointment. The aforementioned full-length was absolutely fantastic and the band comes back in full form for this release. Yet this ultimately makes the EP seem more like a B-Sides collection to And The Grammar Lamb rather than its own separate entity.
I suppose most people would be perfectly fine with knowing that a band they love isn’t changing their sound. I’ve complained of bands doing that exact thing on more than occasion. But with The Vision of a Dying World, the music just seems so much more artistic and free formed. I suppose listening to the Receives A Skelephone Call From The Eastern Side EP could be likened to seeing an exact copy of the Mona Lisa that was painted by hand by Da Vinci, but that is only half the size. It just seems slightly less original and less grand in scale.
Don’t misunderstand, the Makes A Skelephone Call From The Eastern Side EP is a fantastic release with great songs, such as “Held The Hand” and “Skelephone Call,” but I expected a little more from The Vision of a Dying World.
The Vision of a Dying World – And the Grammar Lamb
Original, fun folk-rock that will appeal to anyone.
Single Screen Records (www.myspace.com/singlescreenrecords)
After reviewing the eclectic folk sounds of What You Are To Be You Now Become, I hoped that more great music from The Vision of a Dying World would find its way to my desk. My wishes came true. Following up on their last stellar album, San Diego-based folk-rock outfit strikes gold once again with And The Grammar Lamb.
Immediately, I noticed that the band had changed up their sound. Moving away from the soft and sometimes bizarre folk of What You Are To Be You Now Become, And The Grammar Lamb, takes on a distinctly more rock tone while still retaining most of the folk elements and some of the unique lyrical style of the album’s predecessor.
The immediately catchy “Awoken By A Scene From The End Times,” opens the album with a bang. With a driving drum beat, some fantastic electric guitar work done with that open twang reminiscent of classic country music and some infectious vocals, the tone for the rest of the album is set.
Next up is the somewhat jazzy “Horns Become Handles,” which brings out some of the band’s interesting lyrical and vocal style.
“Dangers,” “Cadillac Bears” and “Not A Place” continue the upbeat folk-rock sound of the previous tracks. The band continues to shine in these with their use of vocal harmonies and their sometimes crazy lyrics.
Track six, “A Day At The Medicine Show,” is the first real departure from the sound established by the other tracks. Here is a slow ballad, with thoughtful lyrics and a great chorus which you cannot help but sing to (“Oh my darlin’ Clementine, kiss me sweet and move your feet in time”).
Down the line, at track nine, is “Wishing Well,” a re-recording of a track from What You Are To Be You Now Become. The old recording was great, but this one has a more upbeat and swinging feel, making it more in line with this new album. I like this recording just as much as the old one, though I would have traded it for a new song if possible.
Bringing back the sound feel of “A Day At The Medicine Show,” is “Hell Is Waiting.” Like a bizarre lullaby, the song fluctuates between soft vocal harmonies and driving six-eight guitar chords that drive the song. It’s eerily beautiful.
Capturing the slightly bizarre acoustic folk sounds of their previous album is the final track, “Life To The Living Dead,” a song driven by little more than an acoustic guitar and some odd percussion. It maybe wasn’t the best choice for an album closer. That probably would have been “Hell Is Waiting.” Nevertheless, it’s a solid track and captures the band’s unique style well.
With What You Are To Be You Now Become, I suggested that the album might not be for everyone. However, with And The Grammar Lamb, I think The Vision of a Dying World has delivered a CD that, although it trades in some of the signature style that made the previous release so unique, will appeal to almost anyone. Find this album wherever you can, because it is worth listening to.
– Nate Willliams
The Vision of a Dying World – What You Are To Be You Now Become
Well-written and catchy folk with a very unique personality.
Upon reading the name The Vision of a Dying World, you might imagine something in the vein of those dreaded names Fall Out Boy and Panic! At the Disco. Yet upon listening, your fears would be proven completely and utterly false. The sound is along the lines of the more recent work from Piebald, but more folk-oriented.
The four-man folk band from San Diego delivers terrific, sometimes bizarre, lyrics and a deft knowledge of the many instruments used on their eight-song album, What You Are to Be You Now Become.
With the slightly-off vocal harmonies that kick-start the album in “Wishing Well,” one immediately has a sense that the album is not of the usual folk fare. The song sets a tone for the rest of the album, presenting a catchy, albeit brief, chorus and instrumentation that gives it a happy feeling.
This sound is fairly typical throughout the album, with a couple exceptions. With “Smack My Face,” the band produces a darker tone. There is uneasiness behind the twanging banjo and melodic accordion of the song that is just hard to describe.
In sharp contrast exists “The Beaver King,” which is, quite possibly, the most bizarre song ever written. The song itself is catchy and bright, almost bordering on the pop side of things. It has the largest set of lyrics of any song in the album, but behind the light beat, banjo and electric guitar that fleshes out the song, the lyrics are purely strange. More or less, the voice behind the song states that he hates beavers and that someday he will become “The Beaver King” and put them through “An American beaver Holocaust.” It’s strange, but comical in its happy attitude.
When listening carefully to the lyrics throughout the album, you can hear some of the more morbid lyrics sprinkled in various places. It’s not until one finishes listening to the album that it is far more remorseful than happy, speaking often of death. Yet amongst it all, the band pushes forth a sense of contentment behind the ideas of impending doom.
What You Are to Be You Now Become isn’t for everyone. If you enjoy folk or well-written lyrics, I suggest you give it a listen. If you prefer something a little more standard, steer clear. I thoroughly enjoy this album and will continue listening to it for years to come.