Sound: Pop-rock bands can easily get swallowed up by the music scene if they don't deliver solid songwriting that goes beyond just one or two hit singles. Thankfully Brooklyn's The Comas go above and beyond what you might expect on their latest record Spells. While the band has been making albums since 1999, Spells is it's first offering on Vagrant Records and should create quite a buzz in the music world this time around.
The first track Red Microphones is reminiscent of Weezer in it's first album heyday. Between the wacky sound effects and the Rivers Cuomo-like vocal delivery, the song is just downright fun. It's an interesting introductory and song, particularly given the fact that it is sort of the antithesis of the big opener with it's laid-back, goofy feel. Red Microphones is a great song, but it only just skims the surface in terms of what musical varieties the bands touches upon throughout the course of the record.
Hannah T starts out with the same pop-rock format, but it takes a turn along the way that brings out a grittier, more garage-rock guitar sound. The chorus actually feels a lot like the earlier work of the White Stripes, both in terms of the guitar distortion used and the emotional, if somewhat imperfect playing involved. And by calling it imperfect, this is in no way criticism and actually makes for a much more interesting, spontaneous song. While the core songwriting is not necessarily the most unique, there are plenty of fascinating elements to the track.
If you recall all of the shoegazing bands of the '90s, then you'll find some of the tracks on Spells a trip down memory lane. None of the tracks are quite as moody as My Bloody Valentine or Lush's work, but there is definitely a mellow, hazy feel to a few of the songs. after The Afterglow and Thistledown are slower-tempo songs that have a bit of a melancholy feel when you throw in echo-heavy vocals and the deep keyboard lines. These songs are far different than the opening track Red Microphones and really speak to the band's talent as songwriters. // 9
Lyrics: The lyrics have somewhat of a dreamy quality on Spells. They might not be the most unique or original at some points, but there's a simplicity found in most of the tracks that adds a certain character to it all.
In Thistledown, there's a strong similarity to Smashing Pumpkins' Take Me Down (the one with James Iha on vocals). Thistledown has a simplistic, yet sweet quality much in the same way that the Pumpkins' tune did. Vocalist Herod sings, Follow me to Thistledown; There's no one living in that town; And they say you've got to see the view from the top of the trees. It may be a little too basic for some listeners, but given the ethereal-like quality of the music it seems to work.
Light The Pad has a bit more descriptive quality to it and contrasts nicely with Thistledown. Herod sings, We're not such elastic things: We're born into a world of strings; Spun light from a cynic's mind. There is a puzzling quality to it that is not that easy to comprehend, but at least not every song sticks to the simplistic approach. // 8
Overall Impression: As albums in their entirety go, Spells is successful at delivering a set of enjoyable, melodic pop-rock tracks. To the band's credit, they also have multiple layers on top of the core song, and hearing the extra organ and guitar lines makes all the difference. Because so many of songs do have such a laid-back feel, the band really adds a nice texture to the ballads by experimenting with effects.
The Comas will hopefully be gaining a bit more of name for themselves with the latest album. Andy Herod's charismatic vocals definitely are a highlight, but the band as a whole gives it a bit more dynamic result. Hearing pianist/organist Matt Sumrow's quiet, yet powerful organ lines can completely change the direction of the song and that's an impressive contribution. It would be great to also hear a bit more of guitarist Nicole Gehweiler's vocals on the next album. She goes from a sweet soprano songbird to a growling punk rocker on Spells, and that's a talent that should be utilized more in the future. // 9