Sound — 8
If These Trees Could Talk are a post-rock band from Akron in the United States. They have maintained a low profile for the decade of their existence, independently releasing two albums prior to this one. In 2015, the band signed to Metal Blade Records, who re-released their two albums and signed them to a record deal to make this album.
Post-rock is one of those oddball genres. It casts a wide net to catch a lot of disparate bands under its gaze. While describing a band as, say, symphonic metal tells the listener a lot, post-rock is so wide-ranging that all it usually means is that there is a lot of ambient guitar sounds that aren't dark enough to be cast as drone metal or sludge metal. Oftentimes, there are often no vocals, as is the case here.
The If These Trees Could Talk version of post-rock appears most related to dream pop. The rhythms are all moderately paced. The majority of the guitar parts are clean, but there is a healthy dose of distortion when it makes the most sense. Distorted or not, almost all of the guitar rhythms and melodies are shaped by a delay pedal with a decently long feedback time (longer than a slapback delay but short enough to remain a legitimate part of the rhythm). There is also a persistent orchestra-like synthesizer that adds to the dream pop impression of the album.
The drums stick out for the way they are recorded. The playing itself is not spectacular, though it isn't boring either. Maybe the drummer plays a little heavy on the cymbals to get that more ambient, shoegaze effect. But as for the recording, something sounds different. In one section where only the toms are played, it feels like a drum machine was used instead of an actual musician. Then at other points, it sounds like the drums were recorded in mono; they come across much thinner than the lushious guitars. And then there's the snare drum tone. It isn't necessarily out of place or out of touch, but something is definitely... different about it. Again, it isn't a "St. Anger" snare, but it is certainly non-traditional.
Thankfully, the guitar work is by far the best aspect of the album. First there are the tones. Nothing too grainy, nothing too experimental, just meat and potatoes clean/distorted tones. And the distorted tones are more of a Marshall crunch than a Mesa Boogie sizzle. Like the tones, the playing itself also sounds rock-based. While this album is definitely nothing like a regular rock album, there are hints here and there that the genre-defying guitar playing has rock roots. For example, the guitars use some pentatonic scales like how a rock guitarist might in a guitar solo. There also aren't any pointedly dissonant sounds like those that might be heard on a more jazz-based or indie-based record. Actually, given the clean production of this album (drums excluded), it doesn't sound nearly as indie as could be expected.
Another nice thing about this album is the balance it strikes between the calm flow of one song to the next and the individuality of each song. The songs progress from soft to loud and back again in a great way so that the album can be listened to all the way through; it doesn't sound like one song is completely separate from the next. That being said, the songs also have enough memorable, distinctive qualities that it is possible to pick favorites or to easily associate a riff with a song. It's basically the best of both worlds between an ambient dream pop sound and a typical hard rock sound.
Lyrics — 8
This album is completely instrumental. So nothing to see (or hear) here.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall this album is a solid effort that has the potential to entice mainstream rock listeners into the post-rock genre. This is good music but at the same time, there is no jaw-dropping song or moment that puts it over the top into a special category.
This album would do great as something to listen to before going to bed or as something to pass the time at work when music would help to keep on going. This music would also be great for the listener who wants to devote time to it in order to understand all of its intricacies. This album doesn't have an unending array of features like a jazz album might, but it can certainly go past its initial use as ambient music. This could definitely be something that someone listens to on a regular basis with a certain degree of expectation and anticipation like a regular hard rock album would be.