Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tow’rs - Grey Fidelity

Tow’rs - Grey Fidelity  

The latest album from Tow’rs, Grey Fidelity, builds on the exceptional qualities established on 2015’s The Great Minimum while expanding this Flagstaff outfit’s musical and literary reach. This isn’t to say that the lyrics on Grey Fidelity are mired in preciousness – instead, Kyle Miller’s writing talents find an accessible balance between eloquence and conversational that few acts, modern or otherwise, can match. The album’s primary theme revolves around the abiding value of hope in a world seemingly intent on obscuring or crushing every vestige of it in our everyday lives. Sometimes we just have to continue onward with the hope of a better tomorrow until we are strong enough to actually realize that better tomorrow. Grey Fidelity is far from a downer release. Instead, this collection of eleven songs approaches eternal questions in a bracing, artful fashion. It sets this five piece up as one of the best working today and opens their futures up further than ever before. 

The band is never one for pushing on their audience too hard. The first song, “Girl in Calico”, draws you in slowly and through suggestion rather than sonically overwhelming you. The arrangement has an ill-defined ambiance that’s only given firm shape by the vocals and some clean guitar cutting through the atmospherics. “Alright” is a real heartbreaker for anyone who has faced difficult passages of personal growth. Kyle Miller’s songwriting presents the subject in the starkest possible terms with a flash of poetry thanks to his weathered, deeply emotive voice and the song’s vocal harmonies further sweeten things. The gentle lilt of acoustic guitar driving “Gold Parade” makes this one of the album’s more memorable moments and the prominence of the vocal harmonies gives it some added panache. The words are among the album’s best. 

Understated percussion and circular, almost hypnotically effective acoustic guitars make “Liminal” a luminous listening experience. The vocals do an excellent job of syncing up well with the emotions embodied by the players – Tow’rs, as a rule, writes very intimate material, but this ranks high as one of the album’s most naked and vulnerable moments. The dollops of keyboards and suggestion of strings in “Consolations” makes for an excellent dual counterpoint to the guitar and drums. The latter are particularly effective for keeping the song on the move; there’s a surprising vibe to this song recalling the early 1970’s work from Fleetwood Mac, but it isn’t a sustained mood. They pull back the reins on the penultimate track “Going” and the vocal couldn’t possibly be any more different than on the preceding song. The stripped back verses contrast well with the chorus and pre-chorus. There’s a sort of quasi-classical feel driving the opening of “Holy Water” before it segues into a more ambling body and the lightly strummed electric guitar sets a nice tone. The finale “I Can’t Help Myself” recalls old blues songs with its title and the lonesome harmonica wail coloring the song seems to solidify that connection. It’s an appropriately moody ending to an album that acknowledges life’s hard bitten realities while never entirely succumbing to them.  

9 out of 10 stars 

Alonzo Evans

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