Thursday, January 26, 2017

Album Review: Greywind - Afterthoughts

One of the big surprises of last year was that Jimmy Eat World was able to rise from the ashes of obscurity to make a great record, one that found its way onto my list of the best albums of the year. Alternative rock of that stripe has been all but non-existent in recent years, so hearing something that had both muscle and melody of that variety was incredibly refreshing. Fast-forward a few months, and we're now receiving the debut album from Greywind, who reference that brand of rock as a key influence in their sound. "Afterthoughts" is following in that mold, and has the chance to fill a hole that is desperately needed.

Greywind takes a slightly different tract, marrying that surging sound to elements of post-rock atmospherics, creating an identity that is more slow-burning and introspective. Within each song, you get moments of power juxtaposed with graceful passages of emotion. Adding that darker, more conceptually heavy component to the music has the potential to elevate the music above the simple formula of power chords and sugary hooks that might have been expected.

That's the potential. Whether or not they hit those marks is a different story. What is successful is the approach they take of blending the soft and the heavy in the same song, as opposed to taking their reserved moments and putting them in separate songs. That is often done, and it usually fails, because a four minute stretch of meandering notes doesn't often have anything compelling to offer. But by utilizing those elements as a set-up for the more muscular hooks, both sides get to play off each other. It should be Songwriting 101, but it's amazing how often bands lack an awareness of how to best frame their ideas.

Which brings us to the crux of the album. While Greywind has a laudable sound, and show they understand how to construct songs to make them most effective, the actual content of the music doesn't quite live up to the promise. There are good tracks here, notably the opening trio of "Afterthoughts", "Forest Ablaze", and "Circle", but the album spends too much time lost as it tries to get from one good moment to the next. This style of music isn't known for its memorable riffing, and that carries through, with little of the guitar work doing anything of note. It sets the stage, but through the slower moments, there are just hints of fragmented chords that are place-holders until the choruses come. It would work well enough if the choruses had enough punch, but the hooks are solid when they need to be devastating.

"Afterthoughts" is a fine record, and it's enjoyable to listen to, but there was the potential for even more here. With a bit more polishing here and there, this could have been elevated to where Jimmy Eat World landed with "Integrity Blues". Both albums are dark, pop-fueled rock records, but only one of them managed to convey the feeling and the sound of putting a candy coating on a bitter pill. Greywind has the ability to get there, but they need more experience before they make the record that will define them. This is a good first step, but it's a record that feels like them finding their footing for what will come next.

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