Somerset plays the brand of emo that has been popular for the last few years, throwing in slightly interesting sounds (such as strings during “Clockwork”) that try to bring up listener’s interest, which flags even at the onset. The fact is that there is nothing truly compelling about the music on “Pandora”, as Somerset tries their best to create a product that in no way will offend or otherwise be untoward to their listeners. The nasal twinge of Forrest’s vocals on the entirety of “Pandora” is reminiscent of “OK Computer”-era Radiohead; while the vocals often times find themselves to be even more snotty than Thom’s, they do provide an interesting contrast to the fairly muddy production values on the disc.
With tracks like “Colors of Insomnia” being appeasing musically, there are still the aforementioned problems (such as the production) that drag down any possible joy had from listening to the disc. The dynamic tension feels as contrived on this disc as it does when someone is on an amusement ride that was created for a younger dynamic than the rider. Clocking in at 40 minutes, the music on “Pandora” thankfully really passes by without much in the way of a fight. For background music, Somerset does play a nice role but trying to command a listener’s attention provides the biggest challenge for the band. Should they move beyond the limitations placed on them by their producer (Christopher Fudurich, of RX Bandits/Nada Surf production fame), Somerset could really be on par with some of the other, more storied “emo” acts (such as Armor For Sleep or even Coheed and Cambria).
The treble that is so vital to tracks like “Clockwork” is entirely missing; what could really connect with listeners (in terms of guitar solos) are simply stifled by all the heavy, bassy sounds present on the track. The decision for Punknews to go with Somerset as the first band that they have signed is a good choice; however, their choice was predicated on Scott Heisel (former editor of Punknews) seeing them live, instead of being treated to this finished product. Thus, “Pandora” is not the best way to properly be introduced to the band. Find them live sometime, and chances are that one will be pleasantly surprised by the instrumentation that is so stifled on this disc. When their next release spins out in a few years, give that a chance as well.
Top Tracks: Dandelion Wine, House of Knives