Highlights are Ignite, White Flowers and in particular Love and War.
Overall, the main criticism I have is, you need to think about the overall shape. Like, not in terms of structure but in terms of how you execute that. Like your accompaniment might be building when the melody is flat.
Like, in Love and War when you get to: "Well I thought it would take more, to burn us to the floor" that section (with the next line, I guess this is what you would call the chorus) feels like it should be building, I think its important that it does that because the verse, while it isnt flat, it keeps taking you back to where you began. So at the chorus you have the accompaniment increase in intensity, and the melody does raise intensity a bit, but then it lets it all go, then starts over again on the next line. I think you need to get more shape in that.
Then the instrumental section following that is completely flat. It needs to do something.
Second verse with the harmony is much stronger than the first. I dont think this is an issue, I just thought that the cadence at the end of the phrase, where it jumps to that unexpected chord, works better in the second verse than in the first. In the first I dont think it had time to sink in. You can do a lot more with rhythm and phrase length. The key to great melody is rhythm first and foremost. What might sound awkward when you have a really motivic approach that is easy to get into when writing can really work if you can find a way to step out of that micro view of the music and look at the bigger picture.
Hmm.. Ok, I am listening to it again as I write this, this is why I am getting a bit unstructured here. But that chorus-y section feels like it should be a faster tempo. I dunno, it is just a bit lacking in life.
The ending to this song really brought a smile to my face, I liked that a lot..
Basically about the shape thing. Whatever you are trying to achieve, you need everything within the song to be a part of that.
Where I thought you did that particularly well was in the first half of White Flowers. What I would have loved is if that song ended after the first "and now it's time to make our way home". I have a thing for short songs..
This wasnt supposed to be such an in depth post. It was just supposed to be my first impression. Kinda why it is a little disorganised..
I'd like to thank you for such a detailed and fascinating response! It's obvious you know what you are talking about. I guess we haven't put that much consideration into the constant build and direction of each individual song, which is a valid and important concept. So you're suggesting in many cases making typical accompaniment builds as well as rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic changes to keep the song moving? It is certainly something we will be more conscious of now!
And we love in depth posts! Any criticism, suggestions, praise we can get is welcomed! If you want to go further than first impressions and give us any more information that'd be great.. thanks!
While it's not live yet, our album got a professional fucking review.
It took quite a few weeks, maybe even months, for me to truly see what the indie group cloudcover were trying to accomplish with their debut album, ‘Memento.’ On the surface you have a debut studio album by two relatively accomplished and efficient musicians, trying to make their stamp in the indie community with refreshing and interesting music. But is there more? Beneath the meandering though polarizing guitar solos and oddly addictive vocal ramblings of the front man, was there a desire for more? Was the purpose just to send a quick message and hope people listen through tried-and-true marketing tactics? You know, be a big cool rock band kind of thing?
No. there was absolutely more. ‘Love and War,’ one of the most shining tracks on the album, did not exist to be just music. Of course, this sounds like pretentious mockery, but really, the song…
I was left confused and puzzled, and as I continued stretching my hands into other new bands and dipping my habits into ridiculously mainstream hip-hop for that weird weekend following that awkwardly ill-timed break-up, I felt disloyal. My mind kept returning to cloudcover and ‘Memento.’ I couldn’t shake the feeling that I didn’t get everything out of ‘Love, Insomnia’s mesmerizing backbeat. There was still a lot more to be discovered in the thick layering of ‘Ignite’ or the drum-driven and harmonizing that rides ‘Small Talk.’ Some weird albums are weird to be weird. I believe you know what that means. Yet some albums seem purposeful while also being weird. Like a Stephen King novel. Like 80’s synth-goth.
‘Iron Cobwebs’ sounds like an early Beatles b-side. Blasphemy? Maybe. But listen to the song, its eerie vocal effects leaving the vocalist distant, and the absolutely sizzling guitar solo that tickles and worms its way into your ear. It ain’t ‘Money’ or ‘Hard Day’s Night,’ but it sure accomplishes something.
‘Leaving the City’ opens with a calming piano lead, seeming to be taken right from a Coldplay power ballad. Yet when the vocals kick, it’s just a guy annoyed about leaving, growing up, and being what I can only assume is a man facing the realty of reality. It’s a far cry from a Coldplay single.
I get the impression that cloudcover are smarter than me. Their music is odd, but not odd odd. There is an absolute point- a point where the boys of cloudcover were debating what kind of music they needed to make, and if their pursuit of the greatest questions in life could be justified by recording an album so excellent yet so polarizing.
So I return to my initial qualms- what is ‘Memento?’ Sure, it’s a collection of quirky songs that remain oddly substantial. Sure, it’s an eclectic mix of off-rhythm dance songs, piano driven ballads, and folk numbers, all accentuated by a vocalist who finds more comfort in Morrissey and ‘The National’’s Matt Berninger than, like, hitting the right keys. But I feel like the group added subliminal messages- making me question things about the realities of adolescence- making me question my musical tastes and entertainment habits. And after all that time spent thinking about not listening to cloudcover and secretly wanting to, and questioning other musical pursuits, I gave up. There is only so much running one can do. You eventually have to accept that odd little thing that sticks out like a sore thumb- that questions things and remains polarizing and exciting- maybe that is you. Maybe it is exactly you.
I would be lying if I said this isn't one of the most exciting moments of my life.
I was planning on doing a big ass review as well but Hipmonlee nailed it on the head for my main criticisms, so I'll compress it a bit.
One of the coolest parts of the album for me also happens to be it's main crutch. The entire album almost plays like a post-rock album. There are nice attentions to details here that make sure the song doesn't sound the same all the way through, but it's generally too subtle for me to genuinely enjoy. While it lacks the whole post-rock crescendo dynamic, the atmosphere on the album is quite gorgeous. There is a definite coherent style on here, even when you guys get louder on tracks like Ignite.
Another top-heavy asset the album has is instrumentation. The sprawling use of almost sparsely but intellectually placed instruments reminds me of the likes of Yo La Tengo and Talk Talk. While the hooks on here are lovely and engaging, the bulk of the songs tend to, like Hipmonlee said, fall completely flat. This is on every front, and the biggest offender here tends to be the singing; probably the most forgettable part of the album. The vocals are dull, and the choruses get completely lost. Generic seems a tad harsh, but the appealing instrumentation makes it seem like an afterthought.
Overall it's pleasant. The album generally doesn't have enough contrast between and within songs to effectively peak my interest completely. It's all very balanced, perhaps a little too balanced. It reminds me of a picture that is washed out. It initially has a cool little look to it but is otherwise dull in your memory later. That's not to say there aren't some sparks of brilliance. When the album shines it shines. This is usually reserved to the hooks and codas of the songs, which bums me out a bit since it leaves the real meat of the songs feeling empty. Lots of great little attentions to detail here, but sometimes it's not always the little things that get the job done. It's either that or the little things just don't stand out enough.
With that being said, Love And War is a really really really fucking good song man.
Dude, thanks a ton for giving us a listen and a review, Arch! I'm always ecstatic to read a new opinion!
Regarding your comments, these are definitely concerns that seem to be commonly expressed among some of the more musically-knowledgeable that have reviewed us, if that makes sense. These are some of the most complex techniques of song-writing and what separates the good from the brilliant. As we work on new material, we are definitely keeping these things in mind as we attempt to continue maturing as songwriters. Also, a few specifics:
There is a definite coherent style on here, even when you guys get louder on tracks like Ignite.
Being compared to Yo La Tengo is one of the greatest compliments I've ever received haha (because I deal with a lot of the instrumentation...probably a little more than the other cloudcover member, while he's usually the guy that's all about the vocals and fleshing stuff out...and bass).
I'm glad that you seem to have liked it! I'm even more glad that you went through the time to listen and give us a constructive review, so thanks a lot man!