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MUSIC — Silent Lions, ‘The Compartments’

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It’s 2014 and the opportunity for a two person, synth-blurring, low-fi/high-fi act like Silent Lions to succeed is more impressive than ever before. What Toledo, Ohio bandmates Dean Tartaglia and Matt Klein have created with Silent Lions‘ latest effort is catchy and dense: the perfectly solemn lovechild of blue-eyed 70s soul and The Cure’s 1979 debut, Three Imaginary Boys. Add in clever synthesizer manipulation, and you’ve got their newest, The Compartments.

The rawness is found on edges of  songs. The cross into “Stolen In the Heat of the Moment” from the ambulating, sprawling opener “Runnin’ Me Down”  is a brief glance into the underlying weirdness that makes Silent Lions different  other acts sampling synths– it’s  a certain tenseness, found between  sometimes unmelodious sounds and  tightly orchestrated waves of foxy, intricate melodies, that make this album so listenable. In all, it is goddamn delectable.

The Compartments runs under thirty minutes, which is impressive – and highly commendable in my personal book of “what makes music good.” A good band can put good songs on a good album. A great band, on the other hand, can construct an abbreviated, tightly knit work that runs under a half hour. (See Chester Endersby Gwazda’s 2012 masterpiece “Shroud.”) In my opinion, the most perfect albums are the shortest. 

Not that The Compartments is perfect, but it’s pretty damn close. There are long stretches of creative, strange melodies and masterfully composed musical chaos throughout; but there are also bits of  breakdown that creep away from the great center that Silent Lions seem to created with effortlessness. Towards the end of “Stolen In the Heat of the Moment,” for example, the sound moves from low-fi pop bliss to an overpowering, flat chorus of blurting synths that the album could do without.

“Crash & Burn”, which immediately follows that unfortunate breakdown, is much more akin to what makes Silent Lions brilliant, and what makes this album an impeccable, early 2014 gem. Klein’s masterful percussion work drives the work forward, and Tartaglia’s vocals perfectly cascade over a booming, thrusting, bluesy tune.

It is not the melodious parts of this album that make it delectable, it’s the ugly, strange noise that surrounds the melodies they create. These sounds, so typically associated with lo-fi music, suit the hi-fi sound that defines the band on a base level. Overlal, Silent Lions create interesting portions of time, taking the listener from pop-rock to something much more complex and captivating.

I would not say that The Compartments is the greatest album that I have ever heard – but it’s definitely one of the best that I have heard from a new band in a very, very long time. During it’s finest moments, The Compartments achieves a lot more than most ever will.

by Emily Votaw

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