Sound — 10
A magnetic synth-pop quartet from Portland, Oregon, Telephone shows themselves to be as galactic-ambient as Angels And Airwaves and as charismatic as David Bowie on their debut album Automatic released by Cobra Music. The band's shoegaze swagger teeters between '80s new waver Nick Kershaw and 2000's modern glazers West Indian Girl. Produced by lead vocalist/keyboardist Eric Hedford, the songs show versatility in Hedford's vocal melodies and ecstatic synth arrangements. Some tracks are designed with overlaps of frolicking synth dynamics like The Visitor while others are starkly heavy and intense like More where bassist Steven Birch and drummer Paulie Pulvirenti maintain a stout rhythmic undertow as guitarist Scott Fox tweeds electrifying chord squiggles. The music is melodically embossed with lofty synths and mellow rhythmic grooves having a semblance to Shiny Toy Guns on tracks like Fascination and Shout About It. The album strolls into ambient-folk gossamers filament by low rising vocals and shrouds of misty synths sifting through tenderly brushed drum strokes and throngs of folksy guitar drizzles on the nocturnally coated Falling. The melodies are sleek and nocturnal with bedroom-pop fringes producing dreamscapes for the nighttime.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics are thoughts that people have in hindsight like in the song In December when Hedford sings, It's cold out in the park/ It's December/ We gotta make a new start/ Don't look back now/ You know it's too late... Life can be bitter/ Life can be cruel/ We take out own chances. The words have similarities to artists like Death Cab For Cutie and The Decemberists where lyrical themes are often about looking back at the past from the vantage point of being above it all. The lyrics show sadness when viewing the past but hold onto hope that the future offers more happiness.
Overall Impression — 9
My impression is that Telephone are disguising themselves as an indie band because the album is too good not to be released by a major label. The music is so sleekly coordinated and melodically symbiotic giving the production a perfect polish that you would think these musicians have been playing together much longer than a debut album would suggest. Additional musicians were used in the production like keyboardist Rich Landar, bassist Scott Pemberton, guitarist Jeff Stuart Saltzman, and Zia McCabe on shakers, which increases the density of the drum fills but never over stuffs them. Synth-pop is a format that sounds good even as pure instrumentals but in the case of Telephone, Hedford's vocals really strengthen the music's magnetism.