Jon Graber (guitar/vocals), Declan Desart (bass), Kenny Schwartz (drums) and Reed Wolcott (lead guitar) make up the Los Angeles based band american splendor. The four songs on Structure in Relief supposedly all revolve around the same event according to Graber. I was trying to make sense as I listened to the songs but it’s not exactly straightforward.
Lyrically, I was quite impressed. Something I noticed was that they string together a number of words which all started with the same letter. Lines like, “massive melting megaphones corrode,” “cloistered coffers cluttered” and “while broken bound and bludgeoned” could all be tongue twisters.
Musically, they fall into what many consider indie rock. There is a bit of an early Pavement thing going during some songs and I was reminded of Conor Oberst a number of times when it came to the vocal delivery.
The EP opens with “Soft Light” which is the one and only song that could be a solo performance. It’s driven by the lyrics as the guitar revolves around basic major and minor chords. The reaches its apex when the vocal harmonies come into the mix around two minutes in.
“Pittsburgh” brings some levity after the slightly heavy opener. It’s a solid song with notable instrumental work from everyone. I was equally impressed by the bass, the drum and the guitar parts. The song is quite dynamic. Take for instance the moments that feel just above a whisper around the three-minute mark to the heights it reaches just a little later.
“Judith” is arguably the highlight between the killer drumming, lyrics and straight momentum. The song has a good groove as well as effective transitions. The closer “American Splendor” is another success - catchy, good groove and some notable instrumental performances.
Structure in Relief goes four for four with these songs. None of the songs left my jaw on the ground but they were quite enjoyable any way you look at it. More importantly, I was able to get a sense of the band’s style between the unique lyrical content and what the band delivered in each song. Recommended.
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