It's been two years since the Great Depression first laid down layers of guitar-flecked chamber pop on Unconscious Pilot, recording at the rare moment when all of the principal members happened to be in town. Last year, the album saw Euro release via the U.K. label Fire, and now it's finally being released stateside on the Minneapolis label Princess Records. Since the band has spent so little time developing a reputation here in the Twin Cities, will locals think it's been worth the wait? Yes, probably, because you had no idea you were waiting.
Mixing five shaggy-haired guys with chiming guitars and thousands of dollars worth of recording equipment, the Great Depression sound like the greatest British pop band to hail from Cannon Falls, Minnesota. Their guitar and piano melodies are revisionist Coldplay: Languid harmonies provide a foundation for great trance music, without all the caterwauling guitars and melted vocals that form the signature of innumerable It bands. And they certainly know how to use all of that equipment: Vocalist Todd Casper and guitarist Brent Sigmeth are recording engineers at the famed Pachyderm studio, which is exactly where they've been the last few years (when not in Copenhagen or Madison), enjoying stolen moments, constructing a record every bit as picturesque as the wooded vistas outside their windows.
It's not surprising that the first words to leave Casper's mouth on Unconscious Pilot are "Making time," because the album is a breather, a respite from everyday conundrums. Several tracks subside on a circular riff or two, treading water against the resistance of synthesized washes. "Meet the Hasburgs" thrives on an angular pick as watercolor synths and a high-octave piano fill in the portrait. "The City by Ultralight" coyly unfurls like a late daylight shadow on a skyscraper as the hymn melts into a breathy whisper caught in a fluid backdrop. Casper likes to chew his vowels, waiting for just the right moment to spit them free. His good-byyyyyyes on "Violent Goodbyes" are like a long hand squeeze that he refuses to let go. Though on "The Sargasso Sea," he finally does: Sparked by a few freewheeling horns, this standout track revels in four minutes of effervescent pop glory. Call it Pure Moods for Moderns: Unconscious Pilot melds laconic melodies with a lackadaisical worldview, telling you it's okay to leave the back door open and just wander. You just might find what you weren't looking for.
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