The main reason for independent music’s rise to fame is that it’s different. The musicians claim they have a ‘fresh’ new idea, and they’re ‘not like other bands’. Sadly, the reality is that Indie music is slowly becoming more stale by every release. This isn’t because of the high popularity of the genre’s umbrella-like term, or because it’s cool to pretend that we don’t care, but it’s because the mainstream media is jumping on every act around. *GASP*, yes indie music is mainstream music. Let’s admit it already. From The Lumineers and Mumford’s folk sound to Passion Pit’s indie pop stardom, it’s everywhere. Now before you decide these bands are utter shit, let me remind you that it’s only a handful that cash in early with their checks. Even the bands I’ve mentioned still have their dedication to music (so far). The heart of indie music is found in the local media. In a city like Vancouver, where we’ve been overrun from the next big band, it’s hard to stand out. Occasionally there’s a band that sets the tone for what’s expected, and that’s constantly We Are The City.
Hailing from Kelowna, BC and now residing in Vancouver, the band’s claim to fame is winning the prestigious Peak Performance Contest and releasing a killer debut LP and EP. I’ve been following this band closely because everything I’ve heard in the studio and live is absolutely amazing. Their debut release, In A Quiet World, is my top rated album from 2009, and 2011 proved to be great with their ultra cool EP, High School. For anyone unaware of this band, they’re a combination of sound is scattered. At times I hear Local Natives mixed with King Crimson, and others I hear The Antlers mixed with Archers Of Loaf. It’s a unique sound that I’m sure will be a major influence in the local scene. They provided me with a snippet of a sophomore release, and I was very excited to hear that their new album, Violent, has finally arrived.
First things first; this is completely different from anything the band has done before. What In A Quiet World had with their catchy prog-rock, and High School had with their experimental pop, Violent feels down right depressing. The album still contains the disjointed and tight sections that We Are The City are famous for, but they’re a different style here. Gone are blitzing structural shifts and in are the continuous drum sections and droning guitar riffs. From the get-go, “Bottom Of The Lake”, has a lush flow of notes on the keyboard, and a 2/4 drum lick that doesn’t stray away for the entire song. I have to say, I was kept on hold waiting for the song to shift, but I never got that. To my surprise though, I really enjoyed the opening without the complex compositions the band is known for. The only song on this album that has that classic feel is “King David”. It’s 7/4 time signature brings me back to my 2009 listening days. We Are The City has matured and they’re wanting us to know that. “Legs Give Out” has a slight In A Quiet World sound, but it never hits the crescendo that songs off the previous album did.
I’m not mentioning that I dislike these songs, but they definitely require a mental shift to grasp the fact that We Are The City aren’t the band they used to be. They’re more mature, down to earth, and experimental. The first four tracks provide a throwback feel to older albums, but it’s when “Friends Hurt” comes in that it really sinks in that the band has changed. What a perfect soundtrack for that realization, because the entire song revolves around despair and sadness. The band literally fucks with emotions like it’s nothing, and I give them huge credit for that. The second half of the album feels very experimental, with it’s almost minimal feel and usage of sound instead of hooks. The songs tend to drone on, creating a thick atmosphere that feels like Animal Collective gone acoustic. Tracks like “20 Ft. Up” and “Punch My Face” are good examples of the developing sound. Same with “Everything Changes”. It’s long chords and drum machine contain such a dynamic sound for a basic song. That’s the magic of We Are The City. They’re music, even though it sounds very complex, is quite simple. The complexity comes with the structure of songs. They change dynamics so quickly and contrast the previous sections like a post-rock album. Still, the band is a progressive rock band no matter what the locals might say about them.
I’m still sold on the song “Baptism”. It’s definitely the album’s lead single (If it were to have any), and shows how much the band has progressed in the past two years. Inner conflicts almost split the band, and they even resided in a tiny house close to mine to get away from the never ending mess of stardom. Drummer, Andy Huculiak is easily one of the best drummers for a band in Vancouver, and the way he manages the back beat has me jealous every time I hear him play. The song plays out like fuzzed out version of previous lead singles by the band, and takes a piece from Flaming Lips’ iconic Embryonic. The sound is so aggressive without having that upfront punch. It’s sound resembles a ballad until the signature We Are The City ‘second of silence’, and that’s where the song takes shape. It’s distorted, massive, and bursting from the seams like noise rock song with a massive melody.
The band has such goofy and down to earth lyrics that it’s so easy to get lost in them alone. They constantly feel like underdogs and are so likable, even with their accessibility being quite lower than other bands of the same sound (Local Natives, Cold War Kids). Now, the band still has that sound of self-despair, but what made the past albums run so smoothly was the themes that surrounded the band. The group doesn’t seem set on what they’re trying to accomplish with Violent, and maybe that’s the point. When a band is almost on the way to self-destruction, that’s where the most honest work comes out. Much like Weezer’s ultimate Pinkerton, it was the best work by the band at the worst time. So to speak, Violent is no Pinkerton, but the comparison in themes really resemble one another. Violent also feels like a slow cooker, and so far I’m not 100% sold on this new sound, but before I know it, it’ll be on my playlist non stop. The album is yet to click, but I know it will soon. Nonetheless, be sure to check out this sophomore release by the amazing band.
Here’s the first promo for the album that contains the song, “Baptism”:
Finally, here’s the actual studio version of the epic “Baptism”: