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 the Independent Spotlight, we’re going to be digging into a band that we touched on almost exactly a year ago today - Underlined Passages. Their spring 2015 effort was one of finer endeavors of the season, and I lauded it pretty heavily for its pop sensibility and exceptional production. Now, the band is back with their new effort due out April 5, ‘The Fantastic Quest.’ Is it one, though? Let’s find out.
For the purposes of this review, we’ll spend time with the first half dozen tracks in the collection. It is nine tracks, though. ‘Calamine’ opens up the album with a sound similar to what I discovered last year with Underlined Passages - very sharply executed with slick production. The melodic tune is a fantastic opener, an easy-breezing jaunt through jingly pop musings and snappy percussion.
‘Arabesque’ is, in my opinion, where the effort starts to get interesting. The song has a bit more pep in its step, and I especially like the soft-spoken electric guitar riffs that orchestrate the atmosphere behind the vocals. The falsetto choruses are lovely. The album art for the collection is a washed out, surreal day at the beach. Tracks like ‘Arabesque’ embody that imagery very well.
‘Everyone Was There’ is reminiscent of a comparison I actually made last year. I argued that Underlined Passages’ sound is akin to the Wombats, or some of the themes Modest Mouse has toyed with in the past. I think ‘Everyone Was There’ truly sounds like a track off the cutting room floor of an early Wombats pursuit. The lyricism, while a tad shallow, is definitely succinctly penned on tracks like ‘Everyone Was There.’
That may be my only quip with Underlined Passages. They occupy a very catchy, infectious atmosphere that lends itself well to pop themes. At times, that does mean that their lyricism suffers catchiness for depth. ‘Rearview Blue’ digs into some existential, self-aware territory that I like, perhaps breaking out of that box. ‘The Driver,’ while one of the most upbeat and dance-worthy tracks, definitely doesn’t.
I can’t necessarily count that against Underlined Passages, though. They play to their audience and their strengths very well. I sincerely hope they do branch into some weightier lyricism at some point, however. ‘Broke Up With Your Friends’ actually hints at the band attempting to do that. It’s a fairly emotional track, and separates itself from the other five before it.
‘The Fantastic Quest’ is a mighty endeavor - though I do long for some further depth in the band’s explorations. That said, it’s an exciting piece of new music worth checking out on April 5.