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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Label: Deep Elm Records
Length: 10 tracks, length: 39:12
Brandtson is back with their third full-length disc for Deep Elm and this time the band strays even further from their emo roots, and heads further into the indie-pop realm. Unfortunately, this disc doesn't quite have the strength of either Letterbox or Fallen Star Collection.
The disc starts off with an almost Elvis Costello-like "Mark it a Zero," followed by more laid-back and introspective "The Rookie Year." Then comes one of the stronger songs on the album, "With Friends Like You," an anthem to the frailty of relationships. Other strong songs include "Cherokee Red" and its reminiscences on youth, and the melancholy final track, "Fireworks and Phonecalls."
Production on this disc was handled by Ed Rose who has worked recently with bands like Appleseed Cast, Casket Lottery, and Get Up Kids.
Sadly, the band breaks no new ground here, and the music is almost too accessible. But if handled properly by the promotions folks at Deep Elm it could make a mark at commercial radio. Not a bad album, just nothing remarkable.
Ken Mueller 2/16/2002
During the summer of 1996, just as his hardcore band sixfeetdeep was breaking up, vocalist and guitarist Myk Porter joined with drummer and longtime friend Jared Jolley to record a six-song EP. With the addition of fellow sixfeetdeep alum Matt Traxler and bassist John Sayre, the planned EP was fleshed out with four new songs and released on Traxler's own label as the Brandtson full-length debut, Letterbox, in 1997. After signing with Deep Elm Records, who remastered and re-released Letterbox in March of 1998, the band embarked on a three month tour with label mates the Appleseed Cast. Following the tour, the band released their sophomore effort, Fallen Star Collection, in August of 1999 and followed with Trying to Figure Each Other Out, a seven-track EP pressed in both CD and vinyl formats, in 2000.
While the lion's share of Dial In Sounds follows in the lyrical vein previous efforts -interpersonal relationships and their associated troubles - the Brandtsonites have enlarged their lyrical scope somewhat for the new release. "Some Kind of Jet Pilot" is an engaging, stream-of-consciousness relaying of the sights and sounds of the morning commute, told by the driver who wishes he were anywhere else. "Fireworks and Phonecalls" is a similarly image-rich account of the train station where the traveler waits for the "westbound four fifteen" that, he hopes, will carry him to better things outside of town. And the best-of-album "Cherokee Red" (Brothers by a pocket knife/ Sending signals through the open blinds with flashlights/ Headlights that ran across the bedroom wall/Might be a UFO) is a brilliant relation of all that is wonderful and mysterious between childhood friends.
The musical side of Sounds is a less solid affair. To be equitable, the production values on the release are impeccable and the band renders its compositions with both skill and enthusiasm. But too many of the songs on the new record ultimately fall into the filler category, hampered by an overhanging sense of sameness that dampens the album's impact as a whole. That said, the new record still has much to recommend it. The intricately layered guitar work and slightly quirky rhythms of "Command Q, Command Z" render it as beautiful as it is memorable. And the rollicking infectiousness of entries like "Guest List" and the best-of-album "Mark it a Zero" helps make their case as templates for superlative post-hardcore music. If Dial In Sounds falls short of qualifying as a major artistic leap forward, it does at least manage to hold its own alongside the band's previous output. And, while the sound setlist is largely inconsistent, the new effort still features enough first-rate material to satisfy both fans and newcomers alike.
Bert Gangl 2/27/2002
A long-time creator of music of the emo variant, Brandtson made their last EP Trying to Figure Each Other Out more of a venture into a pop-emo sound, a sound that seemed to work well for them. Dial in Sounds is the natural progression from Trying.
The music of Dial in Sounds may seem average at first, but upon repeat listens it will be found that the sound is catchier every time you dial in. The guitar parts are really what make this music so enjoyable. It seems that the right notes and chords are always hit at just the right time. I love it when bands do that! Another thing that Brandtson has going for them is vocal harmony. It seems that almost everyone in the band can sing, which is always a helpful thing. These elements combine together to create a rich, full sound that modern music lovers will find hard to deny.
On Dial in Sounds we also find a lyrical maturity that is uncommon to many bands in this genre. The songs are not angry, depressing, or dark. Rather they are introspective, understanding, and in some cases joyful. As should be expected, the songs focus on relationships, which is the theme of virtually all of the music Brandtson has made. They work well with this theme too.
Though Dial in Sounds is the logical progression from Trying to Figure Each Other Out, it really isn't much of a move at all. On this album, Brandtson has played it safe by staying in the niche they have carved out for themselves. Dial in Sounds doesn't break new ground, but it plays in a field full of rich soil, and as a result has much going for it.
Trae Cadenhead 3/5/2002