Reviewed by Ian Morales.
Indie bands these days love the xylophone and other quirky, low-tech equipment. With the popularity of Freelance Whales, there have been several copycat artists trying to imitate the same vibe. With so much great indie out there, new or unknown bands will have a difficult time standing out in the blogosphere. One band that will have trouble standing out in the crowd will be Winnipeg natives Boats.
The Canadian indie rockers just released their second full-length album, Cannonballs, Cannonballs (Majestic Triumph). Upon first listen, the first thing that came to mind was “Oh, this is what the lead singer of Wheatus is doing now.” Remember that annoying, nasely voice behind the hit “Teenage Dirtbag”? Yeah, that Wheatus. If the music behind the vocals wasn’t interesting, Cannonballs, Cannonballs would have gone in the delete pile.
Cannonballs, Cannonballs sounds like a soundtrack to one of those hip indie movies Focus Films or Fox Searchlight puts out. Tracks like “Haircuts For Everybody” and “Movie Scores; We Hummed” have great musical arrangements. Super-fast drumming and hints of surf rock add flare that’s later followed by synthesized horn sounds and hand-clap effects. The problem is that the vocals keep ruining everything. It is obvious the vocals are supposed to be weird or intentionally silly, but it makes everything sound so cartoony.
There are a couple exceptions that don’t sound quite so corny. “Smokestack & Lucy’s Magnificent Cabaret” is a synth-heavy, melodic track where the naseliness is turned down (for the most part). That alone makes it feel like you are listening to another group other than Boats. Backing tambourines, xylophones, added vocals or back up harmonies, specifically by Ashley Roth, help create the best track on the album and single worth downloading for most indie-pop lovers.
The only other standout track, “Chrome Eyelids,” is another instance in which the nasely vocals sort of flow with the song. The military style drumming and high-pitched synthesized melody mixed with a hint of whistling effects make for fantastic musical arrangement. It also helps that the arrangement kind of muffles or drowns out the vocals so it becomes tolerable, even sort of enjoyable.
Overall, Cannonballs, Cannonballs needed better, more serious vocals. Boats have great potential and a knack for arrangements, but the vocals are a damn-near deal-breaker. Perhaps it is a different story when seeing them live, but if this album is the first impression they make on new listeners, many won’t make it out to one of their live shows, present company included.
Red River rating: 4.0 out of 10