Long Island singer-songwriter Adam James has been making music under his emo-angst ridden moniker More Than Skies since 2006. In that time James has worked with a variety of friends and musicians to bring More Than Skies to life. This life began with his 2011 debut EP The Liar, The Puppet, The Fox, which was followed up with the 2012 full length I Am Only Above The Ground. James’ latest release is a sprawling More Than Skies self-titled twenty-four tracks offering of guitar focused numbers accompanied by strings and piano.
James recorded More Than Skies himself. He had the idea to change up the location where each of the instruments would be recorded. The drums for example were recorded in an empty house, and if you listen to them closely they retain a certain echo that lends itself to drums being beaten in a place where there isn’t much to soak up the sound. The guitars were recorded in a basement, though there doesn’t seem to be much significance in sound quality coming through. And to finish the strings and piano were recorded in a local church, however again, nothing much out of the ordinary going on there.
The twenty-four tracks on More Than Skies don’t vary much in their musical make-up. They generally start out with a soft acoustic guitar riff that is almost always joined by either the piano and strings immediately or then the drums creep in and keep a tempo. From there the songs move into a jam session of varying degrees with the piano rippling along with the drums. For instance lay down the linear sounding “Our Bodies Will Displace like Chaff in the Wind” next to “Intervention” and one begins to see and hear the structural similarities.
Though not to be unfair there are shining moments where this structure works very well such as on “The Charlatan” and also later on “No Need to Worry.” The melodies here just lend themselves to be more listenable and one is more forgiving of their similarities. Another noteworthy track is the Built to Spill sounding “Fever Dream” with its wash of guitars and James’ controlled anger limited to a Doug Martsch style grumble.
There are just too many repeats and listening to More Than Skies becomes an exhausting exercise in redundancy after twenty four tracks. That beings said one cannot fault Adam James wanting to make an epic record, because all musicians want to make an epic record whether they’ll admit to it or not. Although as the saying goes sometimes less is more.
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