Album: City of Echoes
Pelican's last album consisted of two tracks that lasted over 33 minutes. I was a little intimidated by it. What I read about it, I thought sounded good. In fact, it sounded like it would be brilliant. But I just couldn't bring myself to the point that I needed to hear it. At the time, I wasn't downloading music, and I was on my heels in terms of spending, so that one slipped by. But when this release, City of Echoes came around, I had to give it a shot. The long tracks are still there (this go around, there are eight tracks, for just under forty three minutes) but this time they are broken up a little bit more. A bit more palettable for a noob like me.
Since it is an instrumental (or, as some would have you believe, instru-METAL... yikes...), there is a bit of alienation for someone like myself. There's not very much to get in tune with. It puts this album at a slight disadvantage: relate to me without words, or you're nothing. Although it is, oftentimes, the music and flow of an album that ends up making me love it or hate it, the vocals do make it at least a bit more relatable. It gives the music a face, I guess. But there is something earnest about a band with enough faith in their musicianship that they throw the humanity card to the wind. They literally let the music speak for themselves.
For these songs, I couldn't see it going any other way.
Going into this album, I was a bit hasty with the expectations. Reading some reviews, classifications, and genre placement, I expected this to be a brutal stomp-through. What I ended up getting was a huge surprise, in that while there might be some metal ideology and inspiration at work, there are few moments (one of them being "Dead Between the Walls") in this album that makes me fully warrant this even as a hard rock record. "City of Echoes" and "Spaceship Broken: Parts Needed" are straight up beautiful, introspective and emotive tracks. Coming with the territory of lengthy tracks are the moments where you can tune out most of what's going on (see tracks six and seven) but almost every song contains at least segments worth listening to. There was "Winds With Hands", an acoustically driven song that just felt overly jammy to me. But other than that, this album is a good introduction to the band for me.
Smart, and absolutely self-assured, I'd recommend City of Echoes to anyone who has an ear for the atmospheric. Every song is an ambitious outing, striving to create its own pocket galaxy, and often succeeding. Fans of the older Deep Elm catalog should absolutely pay good mind to check this album out, and at the very least, find a friend who might have the track "A Delicate Sense of Balance" on their hard drive. This song is a love letter to you.