Nowadays, many people are becoming bored with the current line-up of musicians found on the radio and in mainstream
and desire to hear something original and creative. They may not all hold to the idea that there's nothing creative in
mainstream, but they look toward bands that fit within the genre known as "indie." For years, indie fans have been
holding on to artists like Bright Eyes, Death Cab For Cutie and As Cities Burn in order to get the musical and lyrical
refreshment they long for. Another indie band that lately has been rising out of obscurity is one called
so long forgotten. And their most recent release, Things We Can See and Things We Cannot is
making a big impression on music lovers.
The first five songs are composed of a good mixture of some indie/alternative and a bit of intensity
(though not the sort of intensity associated with hardcore music, though there is some yelling here).
"A River Flows in the Desert" comes first with lyrics that use the metaphor in the title to refer our times of struggle
("Are you a small bird trapped, this land a mighty redemptive hand, far too vast to trust that it would direct your path?"),
and that in the midst there's a river to heal and lead the way ("Cause a river flows in the desert, I swear, somewhere,
oh and there is life in this desert, I swear, I swear"). A friend of the band (and fellow musician) Todd Reese
adds some vocals and lyrics to "Princess Among Provinces," which makes way for the album's first single "Hills Humbled,
Mountains Made Low." This song is about a man who faces adversity but has "God on our side!" and acknowledges that
he's made mistakes, and says "And I pray You have remained a carpenter sanding down my edges till I am full of grace."
"Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes" is a redemptive song that claims that, dead or alive, God is all we've got, and He's
reassuring us that "thereís something there to reconcile" even if we don't see it. A great song, though some may
not like the usage of the word "b*stard." A message of humility comes in "An Empire Razed (A Kingdom Raised)," with lyrics
like "And they scaled those walls to see the blessings I said Iíve got. Then I realized my deserts only better if the good
Lord deems the necessary plight of weather. Oh how I hoped, o how Iíd gloat, for a wicked escape from their homes as if
I had it all, as if I wasnít still drinking from that moat."
Things slow down a bit for "Basilea Basilea," which, according to Wikipedia, is the Italian/Romansh name for a
city in Switzerland. The song is about the Scripture verse that says that if people stopped praising God, the very
earth itself would cry out. It features another independent music vocalist, Daniel Simmons, who heads up the band All The
Day Holiday. "Onward, to the Garden" brings back a little more intensity, but only for the one song, as "Banners Over Us"
is a lot slower than "Basilea Basilea." "Banners Over Us" is about the idea that many people in the world have to get
married and make a name for yourself, and when we die, we'll have done alright, but also that we need to carry nothing in
this life except His banner over us. This idea reflects back to "Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes," when it says
"Your banner over her, over me, is love." An excellent display of songwriting and continuity in thoughts.
"Wonderers or Wanderers" stays pretty mellow, acting as somewhat of a short story with a man singing to a girl about having
to leave to get away from things that just keep him down. The next song, "Hosanna" is a true indie rock gem that is an
absolute highlight of Things We Can See. The beginning introduces a letter that seems to be written from God,
and focuses entirely on love, and even convicts a little ("Thereís far too much triumph in your planting. Thereís far too
much speaking in your love"). The song also would've worked perfectly as the last song for the album. But at the end
of the song, you hear the band speaking in the background with each other, and one of them says "Alright one more," which
goes directly into the actual closer, "As The Waters Cover The Sea," a towering near-eight-minute-long song. It features
an impressive set of drumming early on in the song, and again references songs from earlier on the disc. First "Pretty Mouth
and Green My Eyes," with its mention of God's banner over us being love, and then the opening song "A River Flows in the
Desert," bringing a sense of unity to the whole project, as well as a continual theme of God's love despite our troubles
and our flaws. And with it being a longer song, it comes with a challenge to make it one that will keep the listeners'
attention, and does so very well. Not one second of the song did I feel like it was dragging on.
Now, as you can probably tell from the focus of this review, the biggest highlight of Things We Can See and Things We Cannot is
the lyrical quality and message. Though having a good message doesn't necessarily equal having a good album on your hands,
so long forgotten has successfully told its tales through these songs in a truly artistic fashion with plenty of insight
and depth. I get something new out of Micah Boyce's words each time I listen, and I think that will be a continual thing.
However, the musical aspect can't be left out in the cold, as it's right up there with the best as well. In true indie
style, the band sort of does whatever they feel necessary to best represent the song with their instruments, not
worrying about if it would sound good on radio or trying to conform to what the majority of people want to hear. And
all of the band members deserve adequate applause for the musicianship and writing of the music.
so long forgotten have been around in the indie scene long enough to figure out what sound works best for them,
and they've taken that experience and created an album that just blows me away. Fans of As Cities Burn will be especially
delighted with what they hear on this album, as there are lots of similarities between the two groups, but anyone
who appreciates the art of music and lyricism should give this a listen.
- Review date: 10/6/09, written by Scott Fryberger of Jesusfreakhideout.com