Busy day: here are some MP3s to get you through it.
1. “Tom Hanks” – Their Planes Will Block Out the Sun. With new members comes a new sound: Their Planes replaced their lead singer with a guy/girl duo, and it gives the sound a warmth that was never before a priority. It’s still got some icy, spiky edges to the indie rock, but those edges are significantly ground down. Very appealing track from Their Planes.
2. “Only Your Love” – Bondage and Discipline. Mid-80s pop that gives equal time to sequencers and piano. Summertime is coming! [Editor’s note: This track is no longer available.]
3. “Dograces” – Dub Thompson. Beck? Is that you? Did you eat a garage-rock band? Are you collaborating with the Beastie Boys? What is happening? Are you okay?
4. “New Wave” – Varsity. Female-fronted guitar-pop at its most infectious. Get happy, y’all.
5. “Letters” – Nick Foster. Bright, earnest pop-folk with gospel influences? Yes, please.
It’s that time of the year again: the end of it. So here’ are my last two 2012 singles mixes before the Best Of lists drop later this month.
1. “Still Analog” – The March Divide. Perky acoustic pop with a snide edge and snapping. Dare you to not smile.
2. “Alright OK” – Ocean Transfer. Reggae, pop-rock and even some funk come together for a fun tune.
3. “Swimsuit” – Cayucas. I’m pretty sure this was written on a surfboard.
4. “Rooftop” – Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. Peppy indie-pop with some folk sensibilities, capped off by a powerful alto vocalist.
5. “Time Keeps Dripping” – Emil Lager. Fans of The Tallest Man on Earth will appreciate the raspy vocals and fingerpicked styles of Lager.
6. “Retaliate” – City Reign. The yearning vocals here are what get me in this acoustic tune.
7. “Land” – Joyce the Librarian. The vocal harmonies, cello work and brass set this stately folk tune apart.
8. “This Love Won’t Break Your Heart” – Annalise Emerick. One of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard all year incorporates “Auld Lang Syne” into its gentle folk arrangement. The build-up to the end of the song is simply heart-pounding.
Moody Rock/Electronica Mix
1. “Each to a Grain” – Light Company. Dreamy post-rock, thumping modern rock, distorted bass and melodic vocals create a unique tune.
2. “The Hunter” – Their Planes Will Block Out the Sun. Tight, dark indie-rock with everything in its right place.
3. “All My People Go (Budo Remix)” – Kris Orlowski and Andrew Joslyn. This highlight track from their recent EP gets a bit of a remix, adding a bit (but not too much) of an electronic edge.
4. “Song for Zula” – Phosphorescent. The lead track off Phosphorescent’s upcoming album ties together strings, beats, and an incredibly emotive vocal performance.
Their Planes Will Block Out the Sun makes serious music, as I’ve noted before. Their most recent EP Brasiladds to their oeuvre, as “Cut and Run” features more of the interlocking, calculated style of rock. The moods shift more easily than in their previous work, calling up comparisons to a less-bombastic The Walkmen. “Brasil” is a tense and quiet tune, reminiscent of the paranoia-filled moods invoked by OK Computer. But it’s the band-title song “Their Planes” that makes the deepest impact, as the members give in to their melodic tendencies and lets some emotions spill out. The mournful vocal line of “Their planes … will block out the sun/everything will be alright” over warm bass, trilling treble guitar, and snare clicking creates a song that I can’t get out of my head. They’re definitely a group to watch. Fans of The National and the aforementioned bands should give this a spin.
Confession: if you have a cool name, I will listen to your band. I listened to White Dancer by Their Planes Will Block Out the Sun because, well, that’s a heck of a lot planes. Say it out loud. It just flows. See? Undeniably awesome.
Their music fits their name incredibly well, but not in the way I would expect. I expected some brooding, epic post-rock (perhaps only because the names Explosions in the Sky and Their Planes Will Block Out the Sun go together thematically). Instead, I found meticulously-crafted, calculated indie-rock.
The members of Planes have their sound down on this album. They start off with a mood cornerstone, like an arpeggiated guitar riff, a synthesizer, a piano line, or some combination of those. Then they build on it. A snappy, precise drummer adds the backbone of the sound. Buoyant bass lines bring a lot of energy to the otherwise very organized sound. The guitars add a layer of mood, not often strumming consistently. The vocals dispatch the lyrics with a disaffected, almost sinister intonation. When the band takes darker turns, the vocals truly get pointed, but throughout there’s an underlying disdain and sarcasm that comes through in the lyrics and/or the melodies.
The whole sound is incredibly tight. It’s hard to compare to, because none of the comparisons are exactly correct. “The Flood, The Dead, The Escape” brings to mind the Arcade Fire. “How I Learned to Love the Bomb” makes me think Muse. If Coldplay’s X&Y scrubbed the majority of its emotions, the synthesizer-laden interlocking parts would resemble White Dancer. If the epic aspirations and huge guitar washes of OK Computer were removed, the stark, cold sound left might be somewhat akin to Planes. Planes’ songwriting doesn’t match that of either Coldplay or Radiohead (because of the aforementioned parts that would have to be removed for the comparisons to work), but that’s the track that Planes is on. They aren’t making warm, fuzzy pop music; they’re making serious music. They mean it, and it shows.
So, if you’re a fan of any of the aforementioned bands, you will find things to like in Their Planes Will Block Out The Sun. It’s not the most joyous music in the world, but it’s a meticulously crafted, very well-done release. They know their idiom, they have their niche, and they’re churning out the tunes the way they want to. Unique and enjoyable indie-rock.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.