Things have changed for the Chicago natives Sleeping At Last since their last album, Keep No Score. First, the personnel has changed from a trio to a duo with the departure of drummer Chad O'Neal, leaving behind brother Ryan and bassist Dan Perdue. Secondly, (and more than likely influenced by the first) the pair has significantly altered their musical direction for the band's latest album, Storyboards.
Although over the course of their ten-plus year career Sleeping At Last never would have been considered a rock band, the band offered some rather up-beat tracks like "Say" and "The Night Must End" on their second release, Ghosts. And while the tone of Keep No Score was lighter than Ghosts, the tempo on Storyboards completely drops off the table giving the album a more ambient and folk-fueled tilt.
Sleeping At Last's organic, indie rock sound is intricately powered by stringed instruments varying from guitars, cellos, and violins in addition to the album's piano foundation. The ukulele also plays a central role in the first melodic track, "Porcelain," and "Slow And Steady." Often, Sleeping At Last offers an innovative fusion of acoustic instruments and soft vocals; particularly in the case of diverse, upbeat "Timelapse," and "Unmade" which both feature a terrific emotional vocal output by Ryan O'Neal. Even though the dreamy, piano-driven tune makes "Chandeliers" the best all around ballad on the album, almost every track is well rounded out. Musically, the most distinguished song is "Clockwork" which includes a buoyant, classical orchestra which conflicts with O'Neal's mainly melancholy vocals, throwing the intended tone into flux. The impressive "Green Screens" also incorporates some similar elements of "Clockwork's" orchestra, but, while it isn't as dominant, the background music sparks an impressive final stanza. While the album has few weak tracks, the project does have a couple ballads ("All This To Say" and "Na´ve"), which may prompt the listener to press skip.
Although O'Neal offers his songs up for interpretation, some themes on Storyboards are quite obvious. For example, the singer clearly observes God's creation in awe on "Timelapse" and "Side By Side" (the former states "every constellation/is a fraction of God's DNA /that we were made to notice and navigate"). Other tracks are a bit more ambiguous as Sleeping At Last explores the fears and challenges that face us. The singer on "Birdcage Religion" admits his futility and need for a higher power to save him, while "Clockwork" longs for a new heaven and earth without the entropy which hinders our own planet. Also, the band seemingly drops warnings of a man-centered Christianity on both "Na´ve" and "Unmade."
There are not an abundance of choruses on Storyboards and even fewer rhymes, but existence of beautiful, flowing melodies overshadow both. Although there is no need to separate the two, after you dig down, the honest but intricate lyrics are definitely a substantial appealing factor. It's not hard to understand fans who might desire a more indie rock-fueled Sleeping At Last. However, the band members are almost certainly better musicians for undergoing the acoustic slanted project, and fans are similarly better off with this brilliant album.- Review date: 1/11/10, written by Nathaniel Schexnayder of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: None
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