Head With Wings 2023
Trimming their ranks for a new flight, New Haven ensemble ponder the boundaries of human spirit.
It’s been a long way to this album for the Connecticut collective who, despite issuing fresh records on a regular basis, seemed to be sculpting “Without Intervention” for more than a decade – at least, in terms of gearing up for what can be considered, hopefully temporarily, their magnum opus which, lasting less than 36 minutes, should captivate even those who are usually bored by alt. rock’s suburban ennui. Not that such a superficial fatigue is completely absent from the eight pieces on offer yet, manifested closer to the record’s finale, it follows the wave of existential angst, anger and anguish expressed through adventurous tunes and philosophical lyrics, and here’s possibly why the group shriveled from a quintet to a trio: to facilitate the emotional approach to affairs of life.
“Take the task of breathing and complicate it,” Joshua Corum’s intoning, tremulously summing up the platter’s concept which will unfold into an aural spectacle where a couple of short interludes contrast and stress the intense importance of longer numbers – first and foremost it’s the raga-spiced symphony of “Comfort In Illusion” that, far removed from the EP of the same title, frantically swirls different phrases, harmonies and rhythms to perfectly reflect one’s turmoil without losing the melodic impetus. However, nervous vibrancy is set from the very beginning, opener “The Dream Broker” not taking time to build momentum, jumping instead at the listener from the speakers, as Brandon Cousino’s blistering guitar and Mike Short’s sympathetic drums propel the difficult truth the record’s dispensing. “If truth is the enemy, then I’ve been blind”: there’s bittersweet abandon in this funky line, drowning in a six-string tsunami whence heavy riffs emerge to pierce the orchestral background and send along a pop-ripple, as dictated by the album’s narrative, the story becoming arresting once the piano-sprinkled “Galaxy” introduces dance groove to the otherwise gloomy, if always sincere, space.
Yet nothing can prepare the audience for the stormy “Three Months” that marries thunderous front to tranquil undercurrent, with instruments providing more and more room for vocals to flutter in, while “Absolute Zero” locates folk motifs and cosmic synthesizer passages in a similar dynamic roundabout of delectable sounds. It’s all flawed, of course, but also beautiful – and worth the wait – so wherever the band go from here, their current statement might as well be their last… only it won’t.