There's a strange beast within Petals of Spain's self-titled album Petals of Spain. The first song alone, the memorable "Eat You," introduces listeners to jazz-infused pop with noticeable hints of math rock and I'd venture to say emo-styled vocals. All these elements fuse into a big, stark sound that could pass for progressive rock. The rest of the album features similar moments of musical melding, such as the heavy gothic of "One in Billions" that loses its damn mind in erratic drum rolls and brass at the end, or if that's too much try the comparably mellow, keyboard-tinged "Shine."
Petals of Spain is an exciting listen, like all albums created by unusually skilled musicians. All sorts of sensibilities, musical styles, genres and moods emerge from the lovingly arranged tracks. The Denver-based quartet lists their primary influences as Queen, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Rufus Wainwright, Michael Jackson and Radiohead. Certainly you can hear the eclecticism on tracks like the free-spirited "Taking Me High," which indeed features Jacksonesque vocals and Queenworthy levels of exuberance. Sometimes, though, the styles are far more muted, and even contradictory to the tracks they come before or after. "Era of Love" ends the album after "Taking Me High," and the only way the two tracks could be more different is if one of them was a noise collage. "Taking Me High" emphasizes funky bass lines underscoring optimistic piano notes and high male vocals, whereas "Era of Love" takes plodding gloom and channels it through subdued instrumentation (melancholy guitar chords, moribund drumming, anxious riffs, etc.).
This sort of here-it-is-there-it-is set-up makes Petals of Spain a heady listen. The band manages the difficult task of making their album at once strange enough to attract interest but accommodating enough to make conversion to their camp of varied music styles permanent. Modern listeners, for example, could be attracted to "Here We Go," which at times sounds more Radiohead than Radiohead. Classic rockers will be prone to the supremely weird riff-fest of "Oo Mei Baba Wei." What impresses me most is that the musicians never seem to tire of exploring their potential. This is not the Petals' first release, which impresses me even more. Even if you listen to no other album of theirs besides this, you'd be arrogant to ignore the maturity and sense of adventure they boast.
There are a few missteps here (some ideas don't work; the synthesizer sounding sounds on the proggy "So You're Gonna Quit Now" do not compliment the song) but more forward leaps in musicianship. This is highly recommended.
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