Sound — 7
Just call 2010 the year of Fantasy-crude pop with bands like The Constellations emerging from the underground spinning electro-gilded silk rings out of choirs of pureed synths and streaks of sleek house beats. The band's debut album Southern Gothic from Virgin Records has club-rimmed whirlpools emblematic of Shiny Toy Guns interwoven with digital clicks, scintillating flashes, quivering psychedelics, and techno-clad hooks. The trance-infested chambers of Setback produce fountains of shooting sparks and organisms that slosh, wiggle, swirl, and glisten profusely while thatched by jangling tambourine flares. The dance beats that keyster Perfect Day create an electro-pop pumping relatable to the Scissor Sisters while the chill-out vibe of Take A Ride is cobbled in delicately tinseled cascades and soft bobbling beats. Vocalist Elijah Jones has a husky pitch akin to Duncan Sheik as he hovers across the twinkling esplanades of Love Is A Murder provided by keyboardist Jamie Gordon and guitarists Ryan Davis and Trevor Birdsong who shroud Jones' vocals in a cloak of shimmery threads. The rhythm section of bassist Wes Hoffman and drummer Jason Nackers add trickling beats which merge with the swishing psychedelics. There are a few tracks which break away from the prog house complexion that dominates most of the album. This includes the sparsely tiered December with suspensions of soft, glittering effects that have a harpsichord-like texture, and the smoky blues sizzle of On My Way Up. Other tracks have zigzagging shards like the band's remake of Tom Waits' song Step Right Up, and the fluid squiggles and oceanic ringlets driven into What I See. Also joining The Constellations on the recording are backing vocalists Alaina Terry and Shabnam Bashiri, in addition to guest rappers Cee Lo from Gnarls Barkley on sidebar vocals in Love Is A Murder and Asher Roth who enhances the theatrical features of We're Here To Save The Day. Other tracks show a hint of 70 styled funk like Felicia and Weighing Me Down, but for the most part, Southern Gothic is modulated for modern dancehall-pop.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics speak about human frailty and make observations which put life into prospective. In their song Love Is A Murder, Jones emphasizes, I've got scars up and down from my head to my toes / I've lived a long, hard life / Some say that it shows / From the fist fights, late nights, rock n' roll shows / You've got to take it cause nobody knows If you really want to live, you got to be ready to die. Some lyrics have a tendency to be preachy like in Here To Save The Day when Jones discerns, You sold your soul for something you never will attain / Every syllable you speak is weak, you have nothing to say / So save the folks some time and money / Stick to what you know / Stroke your ego on your own time and let me clear my throat / The sky is full of shining stars along the Milky Way / A living, breathing constellation here to save the day.
Overall Impression — 7
Polished to a glitter-pop sheen, Southern Gothic has a fantasy-bent with a prog house roasting. The Constellations sound like the dozens of dancehall bands which mainstream is presently breeding. That makes them conducive to current music conditions but little to distinguish themselves from their peers. Tracks like December and On My Way Up set The Constellations apart from the run-of-the-mill-electro-pop branding which the industry is pressing. These two songs are worth checking out, but the rest of the album is mainly for fans of dancehall-rimmed trance.