The overall effect is just a little too gloomy.
James Young 2008
Invitation Songs is the first outing for this Seattle based three-piece, although each of the band have previously earned their rock stripes in various post-punk bands. They've traded that all in for a rootsy, folky sound that comes across like the Kings Of Leon doing an Unplugged set, shot through with Americana and built upon a cracked and nasal keen.
Throughout the album they build a swell of tension that never quite breaks. It's a classic post-rock aesthetic of forever deferred gratification that can either be uplifting or a bit frustrating, dependent on your mood. The haunted, ominous feel to much of the album is created by clear, sparse instrumentation, filled out with wails from harmonica, muted trombone or melodica, and lead singer Quirk's imploring lyrics - half the songs start with a questioning, beckoning 'oh'. It comes together best on Helen where Quirk's voice is at its most honest and raw; it and the music attaining grandiose sweep. Where it doesn't work the sound is a bit monotonous, most obviously on the last track, Called. Similarly, the acapello opening of the monolithic New Monuments is genuinely arresting but it tails off into dirge.
The overall effect is just a little too gloomy. Music that gets you down to get you up needs something of the transcedent and frequently this album falls just short. A little more uplift from the pacier songs such as Elephant Clouds or the excellent Dancing on Our Graves, with its stomping washboard rattle, and it might have soared. As it is it just doesn't quite get off the ground.