Review: Solea “s/t” CD

I was really psyched when I first heard about this band a couple of months ago as their lineup boasts former members of Texas is the Reason, Sense Field, Samiam, and Knapsack - including former Texas is the Reason vocalist Garrett Klahn (if you're a younger emo fan and you've never heard Texas is the Reason, you suck, they're one of the absolute greatest "emo" bands of all time and all of their output is essential, so stop being a jackass and go pick that shit up immediately) - and indeed this full-length delivers 11 tracks of catch emo/indie rock that really hits the spot. They crank out a winner right away with opener "Apotheke" and its ultra catchy chorus and strong vocal harmonies, which, along with other three-minute numbers like "Frankie Machine", is poppy enough to where I could see such songs achieving "mainstream success", but I don't want those kinds of comments to cheapen this band, as there's actual musical talent and artistic merit involved in all of this material, so don't go thinking this is any kind of paint-by-numbers situation by any means. "Mercy Was Here" takes a subtly solemn midpaced stroll that would probably appeal to fans of Alkaline Trio and Weezer in its use of fuzzed out bass tones and vocal crooning; so these fuckers just know how to write a god damn song, I mean, there's simply no denying the awesome vocal arrangements or energetic shifts in a track like "I'm Waiting" - jumping from driving basslines and subdued feedback to jangly rocked out chords and atypically involved vocal patterns and harmonies that blow the chorus wide open. Good stuff. Now, I'll admit, on occasion they'll start to lose me, the verse riffs in "Leaving Today" simply aren't that hot for example, but without fail once those chouses roll around... I'm hooked. And there's some moody material as well, it's not all "poppy" or whatnot. "Where You Belong" uses some droning guitar textures and intense vocal harmonies in a slightly slower framework that also lets the bass pulses do a little more of the legwork during the verse parts; "Make it Last" is another slower and somewhat quieter track with darker textures and a more somber sort of delivery; and "Shuffle" is among the more rocked out tunes with its staccato chord progressions and such, but the general tone is a little softer and more laidback, so it sounds quite unique within the context of the record as a whole. The recording is nice and clear with a solid set of tones that all suit the music well. The rhythm section is nice and punchy with warm percussion and thick basslines that rest in the distance, the vocals are crisp and sit right alongside the guitars in driving the material, and the guitars feel robust and up front without being particularly loud or distorted - so it's a mix of bright clean textures and whatnot with dry yet efficient distorted tones and ample layering to add little intricacies to the mix. Sometimes the vocals feel a little too far out front, and I'd rather hear them consistently fall in against the instrumentation, but it's not a big deal at all. Surprisingly the layout includes no lyrics, just a consistent set of textured panels and super slick look photographs, so... there's not but so much to look at, but what's there is really damn nice. A solid debut full-length for sure, and they'll probably only get better with time. I dig it and will anxiously look forward to hearing more, so check this out if you're in the market for some catchy songs that don't lack substance.

Running time - 40:26, Tracks: 11
[Notable tracks: Apotheke, Mercy Was Here, Frankie Machine, I'm Waiting, So Far Gone]
Textbook Music -