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 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Settlefish
The Plural of the Choir
Deep Elm Records

Rating: 7.5/10 ?


May 13, 2005
Growing up in the church, the passage about "putting away your childish things" and "becoming a [wo]man" made me a little sad. I happen to like my childish things, thank you, and I hope no one ever takes away my bobbleheads, my cartoons or my comic books. I appreciate the real message of the verse, about owning up to God's will and all that, I just hate growing up. I suppose it wouldn't be so hard if I'd just outgrow the things I love so dearly; then, it'd be natural. After all, I'm not still sad about my baby blanket or Rainbow Brite, even if I remember them fondly.

Settlefish is teetering on the edge of a similar realization. They sound like many bands the musical world-at-large has since outgrown; even if favorites are still spun in random rotation, they sound a bit dated, begging the listener to "remember when." To be sure, Braid, Cap'n Jazz and Mineral are all great monuments of emotional rock, but those chapters are completed. Anything more those bands could put out would either be drastically forward-moving and different, or they'd just be more - additions to already complete catalogs. The Plural of the Choir sounds like more in that sense, and though their debut, Dance A While, Upset showed great promise, the reason their follow-up falls somewhat short is that it makes little progress from that initial point.

Luckily, Settlefish hail from Italy - which for all intents and purposes could be far from the trends of American indie moodiness - and in addition, they do what they do very well. Their highest points are found in delicate, even pretty, instrumentation, which when pitted against the rough post-emo tendencies of hoarse vocals and strident volume strikes a huge blow for melodic music. There's an abundance of detail beneath the familiar sound, and it makes The Plural of the Choir a worthy listen.

Most tracks are standard post-emo fare, the likes of which, while routine, sound good coming from Settlefish. The rock is punchy and strained, the squalls are loud and the pace speeds aggressively. What's appealing is that there's always another layer, whether it be in bubbling upswing ("To the North"), the clicking momentum of handclaps ("It Was Bliss!") or in tender admiration of Robert Smith ("The Marriage Funeral Man"). The band's surprising moments also seem the most precious to their lifeblood, as the little things really do add up for them.

You can tell that the band is truly onto something with "The Second Week of Summer", as the dulcet tinges of acoustic guitars, bells and reflective, understated vocals provide a lovely contrast and balance to the sing-speak cacophony found in other tracks. It's a fitting turn for the band, experimenting with a sound similar to Aloha's early works and sounding more milky than acidic. It's a hopeful sign they'll explore this harmonic trend in the future.

We are treated to some playfulness as well, which also lightens and brightens their sound, adding to their overall likeability. Though the throaty vocal poetry of "The Barnacle Beach" can get a tad grating through the course of the track, the tingling, optimistic guitar lines and the chanted directive to "hopscotch around the yard" remind us that the best emo, historically, is made when the bands were able to stop for a moment and take themselves less seriously.

Granted, if Settlefish took these bright spots to heart and added more bounciness and melodic richness, they would likely sound like an entirely different band. If they'd rather follow their current path, taking notes from the fakebooks of early Modest Mouse, At the Drive-In and Cursive, there are very few bands that would be better to emulate - to wit, their enlistment of Brian Deck is certainly a good start on this path. They are already far better than a sheer replication, what with their creative instrumentation, elasticity and passion, but in order to reach beyond their beloved idols they will have to come into their own. It's a hard but necessary lesson to learn.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters

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