In the time it has taken for The Helio Sequence to release their latest album, the likes of The Walkmen and Beach House have rather stolen the band’s thunder. Sure, Beach House have a striking female vocalist at their disposal and The Walkmen are the go-to band for those nights of alcohol-fuelled regret but that epic, sumptuous and rich production could also be traced back to The Helio Sequence’s superb fourth album ‘Keep Your Eyes Ahead’; a truly wonderful album that was somewhat glossed over at the time. Having contended with frontman Brandon Summers losing his voice leading up to that previous album, misfortune struck again when the band’s studio was destroyed by floods. It would take a hard heart to not want this talented duo to succeed but despite making all the right moves, they have fallen short with their first album in five years.
‘One More Time’ has all the ingredients: tonnes of echo, Summers’ rich vocals, Benjamin Weikel’s thunderous drums and a Phil Spector “Wall Of Sound” approach to production. ‘October’ boasts the required ringing guitars. Indeed, everything is big, even the more understated moments. A few tracks stand out, largely because they aim to do something different. ‘Downward Spiral’, ironically, signals the upsurge with its subtle ambient pop melody and Summers’ vocal is at its most vulnerable. A similar trick is repeated for ‘Silence On Silence’ and the quality is there again for ‘Open Letter’ where Summers opens himself up to further emotional outpourings. In fact it’s the maturity shown by Summers which salvages this record from pomposity; he always steers from the edge of all-out bluster even if the arrangements don’t.
So the overall sound of ‘Negotiations’ is impressive but there is something missing to make it unique or rather too many things have been added to make one think it’s been over-produced. Now the feeling is the window of opportunity has passed. ‘Negotiations’ is by no means a bad album; if it were released a couple of years earlier it would be held in the same esteem as their peers but there’s that immediate sense that they now sound like the imitators. A real shame, even if one day ‘Keep Your Eyes Ahead’ will get the lost classic status it deserves.
The Great Depression, The Walkmen, Beach House, Arcade Fire