Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this edition of Independent Spotlight, we’ll be taking a look at Underlined Passages and their new self-titled record. The duo that consists of Michael Nestor and Frank Corl, both members of the well-known regional act, The Seldon Plan. Underlined Passages represents a “facet of Baltimore music that has had long, deep roots in the city’s rock scene: good, brainy, indie rock...” How’s their new record? Let’s check it out.
The production quality of ‘Underlined Passages’ is exceptional. Each of the nine tracks are mixed and produced masterfully. This is immediately refreshing amidst an indie scene chock-full of poorly recorded productions. Nestor’s vocals and guitar contrast beautifully with the rest of the ensemble. (I say ‘ensemble’ because the duo employs several colleagues to fill in the missing pieces of the music in order to get a ‘fuller’ sound.)
The first track to really stand-out on the record is ‘Every Night.’ The opening track, ‘Perspective,’ is a great song, but there’s something about ‘Every Night’ that is absolutely infectious. It’s catchy, well-performed, and a sweet number. ‘Hope Springs’ adopts a more morose soundscape, something the band carries excellently.
The songs on this record are essentially smart-witted, well-written pop and love songs set in the context of a powerful indie rock band. They’re difficult to pin down when contrasting them to other acts, though I’d align them somewhere in the space occupied by acts like the Wombats or selections from Modest Mouse’s catalog. Tracks like ‘From Your Books’ employ haunting harmonies and vocal sections reminiscent of the great harmonic acts of the early years of rock and roll. (By that, I mean acts that could hold excellent harmonies - the Everly Brothers, Simon & Garfunkel, etc.)
The instrumental and vocal performances on this record are worth noting, too. The vocals fit the sound elegantly and sound great on each track. The instrumentation is beautiful as well, especially in the softer tracks like ‘Like 2009.’ The band experiments into some unique realms, too, most notably, on the closing number, ‘The Reservoir.’
‘Underlined Passages’ is a superb record. It’s well-produced, masterfully written and performed, and the collection is the perfect length, clocking in at nine tracks. Lately I’ve had a lot of albums sent to me that are just way too long, as if indie musicians are forgetting that brevity can be a useful tool. This album is very much worth your time.
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