June 2, 2008

The Helio Sequence / Keep Your Eyes Ahead

Artist - The Helio Sequence
Title - Keep Your Eyes Ahead
Hometown - Portland, OR
Label - Sub Pop
Street Date - Out now
RIYL - an ear for detail, an ex-member of Modest Mouse
who can't shake that MM sound, indie bands produced like a top 40 Alterna-group (think Coldplay)
The Hits - "Hallelujah"
Richter Magnitude Scale - Moderate

The Pitchfork review (which in all honestly isn't all that different from the band's Sub Pop bio) got me thinking. What did I really think of this new release by Helio Sequence without being forced fed information about it? Even the best music journalist can get easily brainwashed by the smoke and mirrors of a well written press kit or one sheet. (one sheet = 1 page worth of bullet points about the record)

What I hear on Keep Your Eyes Ahead is a band that has matured nicely and tried to push boundaries over the years but what really struck me was the lack of space on this record. This duo has managed to erase the two-man band sound and gone for epic production values that overdress even their most bare boned material.

A friend of mine who worked on my last record gave me perhaps one of the best tips a songwriter could be given. He told me to stop singing over everything in order to give the music a chance to breathe. It had never occurred to me that every song I wrote was crammed to death with words and vocal melodies but it was true. Too much singing - even if the voice is decent and or has something important to say- will suffocate the music to death. Keep Your Eyes Ahead suffers from this same problem.

Once I decided there was too much singing it is now all I can hear. I am desperate for some breathing room and there isn't much to spare on this record. I can no longer pay attention to the lyrics, their instrumentation, or their song structure because my ears are too busy drowning in the sound of a man who can't seem to keep it zipped. And no, we are not talking pants - get your mind out of the gutter.

My suggestions for Helio Sequence record: put down the harmonica, step away from the mic, and meditate on the magic that a two piece can create rather than aiming to sound like the super-group line up of a Live Aid concert finale.

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