Painted Giants is an alternative rock trio from Asheville, North Carolina that create music that will fit nice and snug between your Wilco and Bright Eyes albums. The music on their recent release Anaheim is a melancholy filled rock/folk hybrid that takes solace in the warm melodies and inviting vocal delivery. Painted Giants maybe treading up the same hill as Conor Oberst did decades ago but this type of emo indie folk will always attract emotionally fragile young people.
Anaheim begins with a very intimate opener entitled "In Casts Again." I enjoyed the sparse instrumentation because it allowed me to really hear and understand the lyrics and songwriting. He sings "even if your heart's in casts again you can let someone in." Everything in the first song "In Casts Again" felt so delicate and handmade.
"Blueprints To Blankets" starts off with a real indie-rock feel, with the full use of guitars and drums. The vocalist has kind of a hypnotizing voice; Jamie McDonald is able to be humble and emotional with his vocals. There is an unpolished feel to the musicianship here, but that is what ends up making it work even more. The band has sort of a garage-rock tone but aren't loud or aggressive.
"I'll Be The Whale" is a song that, production-wise, reminded me a little of the first track. The lyricism and songwriting is very poetic, and that is maintained throughout the whole project. The same can be said for "The Walls Still Creak" but on this particular track I noticed McDonald's vocals weren't working for me as much as they did on other songs. It could have been because of how the vocals were mixed on this song.
Another stand out track for me is "Stop Counting Days" which has some real interesting instrumentation going in unexpected directions that I didn't anticipate. "Stronger Bones" has a great rhythmic beat during the verses, a real good energy that transitions into a solid finale. And speaking of finales, I was surprised to see that the final song "Anaheim" was nine minutes long. There was a nice little treat hidden within the track with McDonald singing while playing an acoustic guitar. And I think that's a particularly nice touch, because hidden tracks are just something I rarely ever see on albums lately.
I want to mention the drummers, Andrew King and Dan Gonko. I thought they did a great job throughout the album; there was some memorable percussion on a lot of these songs. McDonald is a solid vocalist but certainly plays up the whole tortured, esoteric artist thing with his delivery and seems like he maybe a bit too much into his own voice at times. It's something you can pull off in your 20's but by the time you are 35 it starts to get old.
Overall, this album has a good mix of songs but is far from perfect. I hope to hear more from them soon along with more elements that define the originality of the band.
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