Jets Overhead, bridges (Microgroove, 2006) and Guster, Ganging Up on the Sun (Reprise, 2006)

I'd like to take a break from my usual approach to music writing to do a comparative review of new albums from two alternative rock bands. The first, Jets Overhead, is a new Canadian band whose 2006 album bridges is their debut. The second band, Guster, hails from Boston and has been playing together since the early nineties. Ganging Up on the Sun, also from last year, is their fifth studio album. Both bands essentially embrace a similar two-guitars, bass, and drums sound. Jets Overhead is a bit louder on the whole, but Guster can crank the amps up when they feel like it as well. The more experienced Guster come across as the more polished and consistent band, but Jets Overhead's album has an obvious standout track. While I'm not certain how either band is doing commercially, I can't help getting the feeling that current musical trends will hinder the prospects of the stronger of these two albums.

I suppose the first thing that sticks out about Jets Overhead is the presence of two women in the band without either being the lead vocalist. Jocelyn Greenwood plays bass while Antonia Freybe-Smith sings backup, filling a similar role in Jets Overhead that Flora Reed fills in Winterpills. (I reviewed Winterpills' debut here last year, and will be getting to their new album shortly.) Adam Kitteredge sings and plays guitar, with Piers Henwood also playing guitar and Lucas Renshaw drumming. The music of Jets Overhead tends to be a bit somber and edgy, but they do have some potent choruses. Most of the album is decent if unspectacular, but the second song "Killing Time" is a great rocker that should turn plenty of heads.

Most of the songs on Ganging Up on the Sun could be classified as mid-tempo alternative rock, although Guster are capable of rocking out and also throwing some banjo or a jazzy trumpet into the mix for good measure. This record has a refreshing amount of musical maturity, and vocalist/guitarist Ryan Miller and Adam Gardner, drummer Brian Rosenworcel, and multi-instrumentalist Joe Pisapia really do sound like they've been playing together for a while. The CD has produced three singles in "Satellite," "One Man Wrecking Machine," and "C'Mon," of which the Big Star-style power pop of "C'Mon" is my favorite. My other favorites are "Manifest Destiny" and the hard-rocking "The Beginning of the End." But the album is pretty deep, and I get the feeling that there would be no obvious consensus on which song is best.

Unfortunately, at a time when people are looking for one or two songs to download onto their iPods, the depth of an album like Ganging Up On The Sun might get overlooked. Jets Overhead, despite having the weaker album on the whole, at least has a song that will demand more attention if it gets some airplay. This isn't meant as a knock on the Canadian band, mind you; bridges is still an encouraging debut that will hopefully serve as a springboard to more solid efforts in the future. I'm just worried that people aren't paying enough attention to albums as a whole anymore, and that acts like Guster will fall through the cracks as a result.

Overall grades:

Jets Overhead B-
Guster B+
Jets Overhead


1 comment:

digitaldoc said...

it's a shame that the concept of an album, whether on vinyl or CD is getting lost among the popularity of iTunes and competing services. There are many examples of music that makes much more sense when it is part of a larger whole. It would be like listening to only one movement of a symphony to classical music fans.