Saturday, April 08, 2006

Review: The Coast, Self-Titled CD

The Coast Music (Official Website)

Band Members: Benjamin Spurr - Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
Luke Melchiorre - Vocals, Bass
Ian Fosbery - Guitar, Keyboards
Jordan Melchiorre - Drums, Precussion

I've never had CDDB (the online music identification service) ask me to name a cd that wasn't one of my homemade CD creations featuring Talk Talk, Missy Elliott and a dozen other incongruous acts. This was my first time submitting information for a professionally produced album made by an actual band. I was nervous. What should I categorize it as? Indie? Indie-pop? Alternative? This was serious business. I couldn't be coy and flippant and brand it something like Vaudevillian Latin Jazz. I've done that before. I suspect that's how Tegan and Sara got branded as Blues on my player, because I hate labels. I never take them seriously. This was serious, though. I could be a part of history.

Truth is, I don't know if CDDB used my submission, if they review all the submissions and make a decision on what to use or if some albums go forever uncategorized, no matter how many times people take the time to give their opinions. Actually, they're not even called CDDB anymore; they're Gracenote, and they didn't include a category for their listing of The Coast's self-titled CD. I have no idea if they even looked at my little submission.

In the end I went with "Indie Pop", but that's misleading. The Coast is independent; they're not currently on a label (I have a feeling that'll change), but they're not "pop". They're not really rock either, though closer to rock than pop. They're somewhere in between. It's fitting, though, as their songs live in an "in between" in my mind. I'll be sitting on the bus (my city isn't enough of a city to have a subway) and the line from the first song, "All Farewells" will run through the surface of my consciousness: "It cannot touch me cannot touch me now...I'm just this pulsing heart on an empty subway train". The singer is saying goodbye to someone, and that one line about the subway train makes me feel as though he's going forward, and by extension we all can go forward, no matter what we're having to leave behind.

It's a very powerful song, and one I listen to when I need to be pushed forward. That song and track three, "Take a Walk Outside" were already on heavy rotation on my mp3 player from when the band went by its prior name, The July 26th Movement. The CD they released under that name is unfortunately unavailable (last I checked), and it's an honest shame some of those songs may never be known by newer fans (perhaps the members will mercifully resurrect the other July 26th songs).

The Coast's presskit says their intention is to make music that is both timeless and unique. I'm a fan of the band, so it's no surprise to me that I agree. Their music takes me outside of myself and I'm reminded of when I was young and enthralled just to be alive. Now I'm older and enthralled just to be enthralled once again.

The remaining four songs were new to me, so I can be perhaps a bit more objective regarding them, instead of automatically pinning them up on the "to be remembered forever and ever" billboard in my mind. Lyrically, "Circles" follows the theme of the other songs: spoiled love. It's a very timeless theme. He says that he and the other person "go in circles", and he's obviously trying to let go, but they'll "see each other again". When he remembers their time together, he asks "how much is [his] to keep." Most listeners will be able to relate to the choice he has to make, and will recognize the sadness and resignation in his voice.

Song four, "The Lines Are Cut", seems to be the dialogue after most of the fighting is done and acceptance is beginning to creep in. He asks "Is this all that becomes of us? When all the lines are cut, conversations lay in ruins and all the doors are shut". I've never thought of conversations laying in ruins, but that does perfectly describe what remains when you're leaving a relationship that used to be full of laughter and a connection greater than the two people involved. That line perfectly describes the "used to be".

When I refer to "he", I mean the "character" in the song, but the lyrics are written both by the singer, Ben Spurr and the bass player Luke Melchiorre. In an interview with Virus Zine Luke says that he finds it "enjoyable to see whether people can guess whether a song's lyrics are Ben's or [his]". So, no one but the band knows who writes which lyrics, but the lyrics do all match a theme, so there's no incongruity.

Sonically, most of the songs feature the climbing, resonating guitars that make me want to buy the best pair of headphones available and listen to the CD in a large, empty room, preferably overlooking a dark, removed city night . "The Lines are Cut" is slower than the other songs-- paced differently, which best captures the sense of loss the song is describing . "Evening's Heights" by comparison is faster, rushing along instead of lingering. The rushing undercuts the sadness of the lyrics but serves as an ideal bridge between the regret and introspection of the first part of the album and the profoundly beautiful and haunted final song, "Harbour Lights".

In "Harbour Lights", lyrically the focus is split between the one he says is "the only one he's known" and the landscape surrounding them, which is reverentially described as a "seascape of a sky". The "darkness of the water" is the "darkness of [his lover's] eyes". The two people are going towards something, a harbour, but are also still floating away from each other. He wishes to "take back the words he said", but can't because there's "nothing left to do". The rope holding the two together is frayed--they're "sinking out of sight".

The EP ends there, with a few mourful piano notes, and the two people drifting apart. Though the "used to be" may eventually fade, the climbing guitars, plaintive singing and soft piano will continue to surface for me at random times: under the cover of a dark bus, in my apartment while I'm posting to my blog or when I'm waking for no reason at 2 a.m. because I remembered someone I used to love, could've loved or wish I'd gotten the opportunity to love.

I sincerely hope this band gets signed.

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