Of Ennui's newest album promises thoughtful strokes of introspective depth but fails courageously at delivering.
"Tone Poems" is a step in the right direction for the young San Diego band -- the band does a lot right musically on the album -- but its overtly florid stylings lean more heavy-handed than tasteful. That said, it's the kind of album that every maturing artist needs, one that showcases his or her movement in a dark room: hands feeling around for familiar forms, toes stubbing furniture every so often.
Engineered, mixed and mastered by Small Culture's Jerik Centeno, the five-song, 39-minute suite is well-produced and nicely polished, featuring some classical and literary flourishes that will appeal more to the philosophy student than the Walmart shopper in all of us.
"The first track, 'Spectre,' was our first real attempt at writing a longer song. We wanted to write songs that were more about movements as opposed to verse, chorus, verse, chorus," vocalist/guitarist Brian Strauss explained over the phone last month.
"I’d written all the lyrics the day that we recorded. They [the rest of the band] were reading about old music theory, and they were looking for something that would help convey the wide swath of emotions [on the album] ... A lot of it was about sentiment, the idea of sensation as an abstract concept," he added.
While "Tone Poems" comes off more cerebral than sensual, it's at least a testament to how much thought and care the band puts into its art -- from ornate visuals to sweeping soundscapes to the huge risk of starting an album with a near nine-minute opus.
"I think the people that those details matter to appreciate it. For the people that it wouldn’t be as impactful to, I think they appreciate it but not consciously," Strauss said.
The album might not be perfect, but it's admirably courageous -- a breath of fresh air in an increasingly noxious environment of hook-laden commerciality.
Rutger Rosenborg was almost a Stanford poet-neuroscientist before he formed Ed Ghost Tucker. Whoops. He now fronts the Lulls and makes music on his own when he's not writing. Follow his updates on Instagram and Twitter (@RArosenborg), add him on Facebook or contact him directly.