Sound — 8
When your band boasts former members of such celebrated outfits as Coalesce, Small Brown Bike and Casket Lottery, living up to expectations must be daunting. Sure, these bands weren't exactly household names but in certain circles, their pedigree carried weight. Some of Ultimate-Guitar's older readers might remember the period when these acts ruled the basement circuit throughout the States. After touring together and finding much common ground between the camps, Nathan Ellis, Mike Reed, Jeff Gensterblum, and Ben Reed formed a new project under the name Able Baker Fox. With the members being spread out through the United States, they went ahead using the Postal Service method of writing songs. The musicians traded tracks through the mail before finally convening in Kansas to record their debut album. Voices is not the sound of a hastily thrown together batch of half-realized demos. Rather, this is a document of a band that despite their geographical distance, have triumphed with an album fit for longevity.
Lyrics — 8
To stay in line with the poise and strength of the atmosphere, the band's lyrics reflect the certainty of the material. The opening song, October, ends with the line You are here, you are right now and you are in control stop ignoring what you know. These are the kind of confirmations that used to be championed by seminal bands like Dag Nasty and Quicksand. But these affirmations aren't without their own doubts. In Whispering they sing, It's only natural to feel a little insecure when time has passed you by and you're not who you once were. These are the words musicians in or entering their '30s can truly emote. Experience renders it's head and the band still leaves an impression of hope despite the often struggled imagery.
Overall Impression — 8
Able Baker Fox's use of layering guitar octaves and semi-shouted vocal melodies isn't exactly original by any stretch of the imagination but they tastefully bridge them with expert results. Where a lot of younger bands are using these same elements with far less success, these veterans display their authority over the formula. This is an assured and energetic display of craftsmanship. The only other recent band that can compete with them is the underrated Sparta. Mike Reed and Nathan Ellis' interwoven guitar lines spiral through the songs perfectly often etching out their own counter-melodies. Their restraint on chargers like Face on Fire and Stuttering is refreshing and should stand as an example of tasteful playing. Their teamwork on the album is especially surprising considering the less than ideal writing situation. Maybe the un-ideal circumstances made for better improvisation. Whatever the case is, it paid off in spades. Gensterblum's drumming is a lesson in control. Every accent and cymbal crash falls in the right cracks and crevices of these compositions. The always dependable producer Ed Rose (Get Up Kids, Limbeck) deserves credit for letting the looser moments in the songs remain untouched and not over-compressing the guitars. His room-y sounding drums were also a brilliant move on his part. The snare drum sound alone is worth the price of admission. With eleven songs clocking in at just over 30 minutes, the album does seem on the shorter side. Usually I wouldn't be that concerned but with an assemblage of songs this inspired, I left wanting more.