The Bright and Hollow Sky – Gem State (CD)

The Bright and Hollow Sky come forth with their “Gem State”, starting off their disc with “Cloud”. ”Cloud” takes tacks from a number of different influences, mixing together thee disaffected vocals of Conor Oberst with a tempo and quicksilver attitude that sees early-nineties pop-punk as a cousin. The next high-point of the disc comes during “Going Down”, which uses “Killing An Arab”-era Cure-like bass lines to really push forward the tempo of the track, which would be hopelessly lost amongst dreamy vocals and plain-jane drums otherwise. “Perfect Crime”, while still maintaining the general slightly-snotty vocals of the previous tracks completely opens up the sound possible by The Bright and Hollow Sky. This is done by the incorporation of keyboards primarily, but the track peters off right before the band can really get into a proper groove. It is only the spastic opening that marks “Porcelain” that really stifles public anger towards the band (for the aforementioned stifling offense).

The martial drums and alt-country guitars of “Porcelain” really add some refreshing sounds to what was never at any time a boring album. It is precisely The Bright and Hollow Sky’s desire to keep this continual influx of ideas that keep this disc well beyond the Mendoza line, and their ear for pop that makes “Gem State” memorable. With a “Subdivisions” (Rush classic) sound to it, the intention of “Intentions” is on the verge of not paying out, but the impressive arrangements present on the track (with synthesizers plucked out of an old Nintendo game, almost). The next big splash by The Bright and Hollow Sky comes during “Summer”, another track that is a success owing largely to the inorganic sound it incorporates. This time, the track is a little more low-key than the past, but that does not stop Tyler from infusing the track with an infectious bass line even as synths take the high road.

There are 16 cuts on this disc, which explains why there are some tracks that really tend to fade into the background without giving the listener much of anything new. This problem could have been corrected by cutting the tracks down to a more manageable 10 or 11, and allowing the “Hey, Misery” tracks (Lie Awake) to really take a dominant position on the disc where tracks like “Holographic” could have been dropped completely. Still, there are more than a fair share of impressive tracks on “Gem State”, and these tracks far outstrip the chaff that is on the disc.

Top Tracks: Porcelain, Lie Awake

Rating: 6.7/10

The Bright and Hollow Sky – Gem State / 2005 Pop Faction / 16 Tracks / / / Reviewed 15 May 2005

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