Story of the Sea photo by Leah Dunbar
By Pat O'Brien
There seems to be a plethora of bands that could be the "next big thing" cropping up lately in Minneapolis, and Story of the Sea are no exception. They celebrated the release of their sophomore effort, Lunar Co., on Friday to a crowd at the Turf Club that was packed even before openers Ice Palace started their set.
Speaking of Ice Palace, they have made a bit of a transformation of late. For a long time they were putting out somewhat average indie rock dusted with Americana. Now, with the added one-two punch of Fort Wilson Riot-ers Jacob Mullis and Amy Hager, they have grown in strength and depth. The songs take odd left turns at times and possess unexpected textures with the odd horn here and there, and Adam Sorensen's slightly atonal vocals work much better in this environment than they had previously. If Americana is indeed dead, this is the logical next step -- riffing off of Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, not trying to recreate Summerteeth.
Kansas City's the Life And Times (featuring former members of Shiner) proved hard to peg, and that is meant as a compliment. They started off with a by-the-numbers post-rock build into their first song, but the set quickly morphed into something that resembled late model Mogwai melded with Failure (read: moody yet thunderous). The riffs would slow down to half speed before exploding into bombastic choruses reminiscent of the '90s without sounding cheesy or derivative, even for a second. It may not have been for everyone, but it was nothing if not interesting, and I don't mean "interesting" in the Minnesota Nice way, either.
The award for most schizophrenic set for Friday goes to These Modern Socks. The first two-thirds of their set were fairly bland and seemed like background music for some sort of pseudo-hipster prom, but the band suddenly came alive during the last few songs, sharpening the edges of each song, making me want to hear more, instead of resembling an '80s on-hit-wonder that had that one great song and a lot of filler. I still wasn't completely sold on them by the end, to be completely honest, but the spark they showed toward the end made me think they were possibly having an off night.
The '90s revival continued with Story of the Sea, who weld that era's grimy pop (Pixies, Nirvana, et al) onto intricate math-rock constructions and make it both intriguing and easily digestible. Some of the set veered into sad-bastard territory (not always a bad thing) and a couple of the songs had passages that reminded of early-'80s post-punk, with angular riffs and galloping bass lines. Overall they are shaping up to be a band to reckon with in the early days of 2009. They seem to have come out of nowhere to suddenly be a must-see band and it's not hype, these guys are the real deal. It's all cohesive, flows well, and while math-rock is often cringe-inducing in its pretentiousness and over-the-top complexity (see: Frank Zappa), the poppy core of each song made me shed any previously held reservations and melted my cold, cold heart. --Pat O'Brien
See also: Steve McPherson's Story of the Sea feature from this week's City Pages.