The City on Film – American Diary (CD)

The acoustic that starts off “Mary, I’m Ready” really portends a more electric, intense style of instrumentation that is the fare during this track. It is almost like Robert slowed down and unplugged one of eir prior releases to come up with this soul-searching, emotionally-heavy composition. The speed comes back for “Pony’s Last Trick”, but this is not the aural assault incorporated by bands like Aiden; this is much more tempered by the “true” emo (1995-2000) movement of things, something that really makes sense considering that Robert was in two of the biggest bands of that era, Hey Mercedes and Braid. It is an interesting happening that the guitars and Robert’s own voice struggle for dominance as the key emotive forces on tracks like “Pony’s Last Trick”.

This level of competition really forces both sections into being the best they can be, and means that the songs on “American Diary” have incredibly little room for improvement. Speeding up the tempo again with “Astray! Astray!”, The City on Film seems to first downward towards the storied music scene of Gainesville, Florida; the martial drumming present also recalls bands like Rumbleseat and Against Me!. The vocals laid down on the track are hard to describe, Robert seems to really be pulling from the Bright Eyes side of things as much as eir is taking from the college-rock scene of the middle-nineties (led by bands like Dishwalla and Rusted Root). What is perhaps the best facet to “American Diary” is the amount of attention that Robert puts forth to the arrangements captured here.

It has been a disturbing trend to either move into arrangements that only the smallest section of musicians could conceivably “get” (the post-Converge emocore bands) or come forth with sub-standard arrangements (A Static Lullaby); to see an act like The City on Film blasting forth with nuanced and thoughtful arrangements through the space of this EP is to hope for a better future in which more of the bands follow their example. The moderation of extended instrumental arrangements is another tally in The City on Film’s favor, it also befalls many a talented band that they let the music try to talk when lyrical accompaniment is absolutely necessary. This humble bit of emotive rock does more in its sub-twenty minute runtime than an entire legion of emo bands could ever hope for; this is the past, present, and future of a specific form of art.

Top Track: Well, It Goes Like This

Rating: 6.3/10

The City on Film – American Diary / 2005 Redder / 6 Tracks / / / Reviewed 08 November 2005


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