Album: This Bluebird Wants Me Dead (2013)
Genre: Alternative / Rock / Indie
City: Wichita, Ks
Standout track(s): Bluebird, Retreat, Middle Modern
Seen live: yes
As a 5 piece, this band has had to work on their tone for a long time. The guitars and keyboard give off a heavy U2 vibe, while the bass and singer have more of a Pink Floyd feel. Even though I recently saw them live, their latest album to be release was in 2013. This review will be a combination of an album review and live performance review.
The artwork of the album seems intriguing. It looks like an eye of a bluebird, with particular detail on the feathers. Their open track, “Projections” is a good start to the album with its driving drums and bass. It is arguably a bit deceptive as the rest of the songs seem less dark and aggressive. Their 3rd track, “Middle Modern”, shows off their bassist and keyboardist. They really shine in this song; but because the band blends really well with tone and effects, it is easy to ignore their impact on the song. (A lot of what they do in this band dynamic is in the background.)
Track 4 is “Bluebird”. This song screams U2 influences. With 2 guitarists, a bass and a keyboard, its definitely a full sound. Each instrument is gently overlapping with another creating a chain-link full bodied sound. There might be a little too much over-lap with the rhythm guitar, bass, and keyboard; some places you can’t really tell what each instrument is playing. Its not really a bad thing. The layers add depth to their full bodied sound. However, to some, its like collectively adding to the noise rather than keeping any individual voice of other instrumentation.
I can see the challenge of their practices and the sound engineer that had to find a way to balance everything. I can imagine Vehicles in band practice, and everybody slowly getting louder as they turn their amps up to hear themselves more clearly with so many members. Bands with so many instruments involved, it is important to remember, that although everybody has their part in the band, some parts are more important to the functionality of the song. There is only 2 types of parts. Melody. and Support. Knowing what your part is to the song will help you know whether to blend or stand out. Vehicles does a lot of blending. Having a strong, well-blended support will make it easier for the melody to shine brighter. That is what Vehicles excels at best.
On the topic of melody, the singer has a similar vocal run in almost every song. There are several ways to look at this.
1. He is staying true to his style
2.Even the singer is blending with the band.
3. Maybe he is sticking to the same style because there is too much over-lap with other instruments. Its basically all he can do without overshadowing another part.
4. Not very imaginative as a singer.
Either way it makes for a somewhat boring melody to listen to 11 songs in a row.
While we are talking about the singer, while watching them live, the vocalist was consistently and noticeably flat the whole night. It sounded like he was straining to hit higher notes that he never quite reached. Perhaps he was overcoming a cold? Maybe he was having an off night. Or maybe the other guitarist is the main song writer and the singer is just trying to find something that fits the guitarists favorite key to write in. If that is the case, I recommend that the guitars drop a full step, or maybe a step and a half to help your singer hit the higher notes that he seems to love. You might consider transposing most of your songs to another key to help him out. Majority of the audience is listening specifically to the vocals/singer. Yea your instruments blend really well and sound really good, but if your singer can’t keep up, you are not going to impress as much people in the crowd as you would have hoped.
Vehicles best track, in my opinion, is track #9, “Retreat”. The guitar effect for the lead guitar here is fantastic. Specifically the beginning of the chorus, (first appearing at 0:50) the lead guitar and the singer harmonize perfectly. Reminds me of the Beach Boys. I just can’t get enough of that guitar tone though. I can only speculate on how he got that tone. Reverb, echo, octave, maybe a pitch shifter? I don’t know for sure, but it is fantastic.
I’m going to wrap up this review, but I will leave you with a memory from the show I saw them live at. The drummer accidentally broke his snare on stage and was using the snare drum from Kill Vargas. A few songs later something went wrong with his kick pedal. He was fiddling with it while the rest of the band was trying to cover for him. Eventually they had to stop and wait for him. The singer was stalling repeating some lines from the song they were on. The irony is that the lyrics had something to do with “needing a miracle” which made it funny. The singer of course realized this irony and was using it to entertain the crowd. (A genius spark of improvisation if you ask me.) But the drummer eventually fixed his kick pedal and the band came in all on time. It almost seemed planned, even though it obviously wasn’t. I just want to tip my hat to the band for keeping their cool and turning a potentially devastating situation and turning it around and coming back in to the song and finishing their set strong. Only seasoned musicians could deal with that kind of situation so smoothly.
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