[Scroll to the bottom of the page to stream the entire album, or any song therein, while you read!]
OurVinyl had the opportunity of becoming acquainted with Save The Clocktower when they gave us their song Drip to be included in the October 2011 Back of the Rack. That song came from their first album “Carousel” (that album was also featured in a Free Friday Release article, and you can still get it for yourself freely!). The four piece band from Chicago has now released their second full length album, ‘Through the Glass’.
This album is a definite growth from their first LP, which was not at all without it’s charms. But there seems to be more of a focus on creating an album whose sound is embodied with a certain character and atmosphere throughout. This is not done through having songs with similar tempos, or identical emotion undertones. Instead it is through a certain balance of the instruments and the approach to the audio engineering of the album. Save The Clocktower seems to have gone for creating an airy, at-times whispy sound, that is endowed both with a neo new-wave attention to the beats, and with a quasi-pyshcedlic spacey sonic aura as well. Often the vocals are falsetto, always have a certain amount of reverb, and are only clearly discernible seemingly half the time. This is not to their detriment though, as this always lends an emotive direction to the song. They also place instruments all throughout the stereo-field. The vocals and drums are usually right up the middle, with the guitars moving around, and the synths (or other sounds) are usually wide at the periphery. But each instrument usually, although not always, feels like it takes up a lot “sonic space”. The end result is a sort of unconventional “wall of sound”, not in the Alan Parsons way, more of in an indie rock, neo-80’s, minimal-electro-rock kind of way.
In this album Save The Clocktower seem to take aim at establishing sultry smooth beats, that aren’t devoid of a focus on snare and kick, but tend to let them recede somewhat, allowing the underlying beat – and emotion aspect of the rhythm – to seemingly be equally created by all instruments. Again, reinforcing this kind of 80’s, glossy & dream like “wall-of-sound”. This is where the album succeeds. They successfully created a palpable, and pleasant, undertone to all of the songs of the album, giving them a engaging cohesiveness. But then within this cohesive atmosphere they created they give you songs that vary a good amount otherwise. This, of course, intrigues the listener even more-so and lets the album get better upon repeated play.
Some highlights are Like That, a song that right off the bat comes off as enjoyable, with a swaggering cadence, and 80’s simple-styled drums. But the vocals are less falsetto here and instead fall somewhere between singing and rhythmic talking, in a positive way. The synths add some depth to the periphery, exemplifying the best of the subtly glamorous wide-sound quality they seem to be going for. In I Know I’d Feel the Same the drums, specifically the snare, stand out more than normal in a splendid manner (actually, some songs on the album could have benefited from a snare sound similar to this, as it really enhances the beat without sacrificing the overall feel). The vocals lead the way, with some good use of delayed reverb, and the result is an instant catchy’ness that draws you in. It also makes you want to dance. Here the synths are pleasantly amalgamating and present, but with the forward vocals and snare there is a dance-friendly quality to the song that is not lost upon repeating listen.
It Happens just might be the most endearing song on the album, a fact that is probably not noticeable upon the first spin. Yet still it might be the one you remember awhile from now, even with it’s dissimilar melancholy character. It’s feel falls somewhere between subdued-electro pop and 60’s psychedelia. The somewhat reduced tempo, and a contrasting minimal-leaning sound, and hollow-but-forcefull drums, allow you to get lost in the song – but not in the new-wave movement-inducing manner as before. There is a pleasant timeless aspect to this song. It’s a definite winner.
‘Through the Glass’ comes off as an album that was a large time investment. Each track is nuanced with a certain audiophile quality. It’s not perfect though. What If, and Tunnels in Time seem to be a little over focused on the atmosphere quality, and even with discernible lyrics they have a certain “background music” quality. There are peaks and valleys on this album, with the aforementioned tracks being the valleys. They aren’t poor songs though, not to be confusing, because within a full listen of the album they definitely make sense and have their place . (However, in today’s world that’s not the usual method people listen to music, unfortunately.)
In conclusion, this is one of the year’s best release from an unsigned band, especially specifically within the genre of indie electro pop/rock, or chill-wave. And they are playing a genre that is quite in vogue, with many competitors, although many of those band’s have trouble endowing enough character to more than just a couple tracks. That’s not a problem Save the Clocktower has. Because while ‘Through the Glass’ has a central personality, it still offers adroitly composed songs at a variety of tempo’s and emotive feels. And there are examples of success at each pace. Although to be sure, it’s songs are best enjoyed and understood as a cohesive album and singular unit.
It will be interesting to see how long these guys will stay unsigned. Hopefully, not for long.
By Sean Brna
OurVinyl | Editor
Below you can listen to ‘Through the Glass’. You can also purchase the album on iTunes here.