Sound — 6
Made up of former Tooth & Nail recording artists, Terminal and Equal Vision Records' Goodbye Tomorrow, Alive In Wild Paint specialize in the quiet-storm kind of piano-laced pop that has made bands like Keane international favorites. It's an easy genre to take critical shots at, and believe me, many writers have been complete savages about it through the years. But being a melody man myself, I've often been drawn to artists that lean towards this black-eyed genre. Aqualung, Copeland, and the aforementioned Keane have been personal favorites of mine these past few years. The common factor the bands I just mentioned is they all have magnetic, full-voiced vocalists leading them. Phoenix, Arizona's Alive In Wild Paint's front-man, Travis Bryant, while definitely capable, doesn't possess the needed power in his delivery to truly drive these songs home. His melodies are accomplished and perfectly placed over the arrangements but his vocals often don't pack enough punch to take them to the next level, so to speak. There were many times throughout their debut album, Ceilings that I kept on expecting Bryant to start belting out at full register but it never happened. Instead, he keeps his vocals at a soft, almost hushed volume.
Lyrics — 7
The majestic textural feel the band creates works as an ideal foundation for the band's Technicolor lyrics. The sweeping prose on tracks like "Everywhere, An Ocean," blends well with the band's sonic palette. But despite the vivid imagery and grand wordplay, the lyrics are rooted in deeply personal themes. They touch upon many aspects of the human condition and always do it with a keen sense of awareness. There are some absolute knockout lines spread out through the disc. The kinds of lines that stand out instantly and get quoted in album review after album review. The stirring "Children of Divorce" contains the gem, "We are the unwritten scrolls/background songs/for dialogues/always wanting something more." These are the kinds of lyrics that creep into your subconscious from the very first listen. Most songwriters prefer having their lyrics left for the listener to interpret. Ceilings sometimes abstract lyrics definitely had me guessing throughout. But I welcomed the challenge. It's not hard when they spin clever lines like, Fools rushing out and in like a pool cue through fingers split, which starts off Traffic.
Overall Impression — 6
Mark Trombino (Jimmy Eat World, Mineral) puts in another impressive performance that further cements his reputation as one of modern-rock's most dependable producers. His wraps the performances in a shimmery gleam that frames the arrangements nicely. He handles the band's softer moments expertly where he spotlights their charming vocal melodies. Unfortunately Bryant's voice isn't big enough to sell them. I might be being tough on the front-man but his winning melody lines deserve much better. In contrast, drummer, Austin Wilson comes off like a veteran with his controlled playing and stylistic flair. Matt Grabe's gorgeous guitar tones are also of note. Everything from his warm acoustic strumming in "Cold Spell" to the chorus pedal driven "Sleep with Your Soul In," wouldn't feel out of place on a Travis or Snow Patrol record. Grabe's playing is economic yet inventive and is the real standout here. It would be great to see his performances have a larger presence in the final mix on their next long player. It wouldn't definitely temper the band's tendency to stay in their mellower moments too long. Don't get me wrong, AIWP definitely know how to craft lush soundscapes ("Traffic") and it's an asset in their arsenal they should explore further later on, but some thicker guitars could add an interesting dynamic to it. This album frustrates me because you just know what the band is capable of. Their strengths are on full display on Ceilings but their weaknesses prove to be too heavy in the end.