…this world is more than who we are as individuals. We are all in this room together and no matter what we believe in or love there is always going to be someone that does not feel the same way. We should not be so quick to anger that we miss what there is to gain from one another.
Can pop music have meaning, depth, substance? There are no small numbers of musicians who would answer yes. Among them is the Austin-based band Language Room. They conceived, composed and recorded their debut album “Things We Wish For” to explore meaning and emotion in the constant struggle to realize the newness of daily experience. The words above are part of the mission statement of the band printed on their website. When was the last time a band thought up and published a mission statement?
Despite what it may seem like, Language Room is not some kind of feel-good-world-beat-fusion group. Their debut album, which they self-categorize as alternative/indie is a mix of mellow musical textures built around lead-singer Todd Sapio’s airy tenor. In an often used but still appropriate label, this CD is good ‘chill music’, but far from being background music.
Most of the songs are mid to slow in tempo and the variety of music-scapes which back up the vocals are far more harmonious than jarring. In a refreshing turn away from much mainstream alternative, the vocals are the main focus: the lyrics are well thought out and clearly made to be understood, to tell a story or express personal experience. This does not exactly lend itself to dancing about wildly or to especially hooky, catchy and memorable choruses, but that does not seem to be the point. Unlike the lyrics-formerly-known-as-emo, although there is no shortage of frustration, exasperation and dismissal of authority, the words are not the garden variety which is so common. There are small twists which bring the songs to life and give them specific character whether it is introspective or commentary.
Musically, the instrumental subtleties of each song show that serious amounts of work were put into each and every track. The main foil of the album is the guitar, which alternates between acoustic and electric. Much of the guitar work is based on crystal clean minimalist patterns a la A Perfect Circle through which the vocal melody weaves. Best demonstrated by the track “Playing God”. On the acoustic side, “Taking Life All Wrong” is an example of the conflation of storytelling lyrics, subtle drums, bells and cello over bass and strum acoustic guitar.
Taken as a whole, what stands out about “Things We Wish For” is the attention to detail and craftsmanship. On the first listening, the melodies of each song are enticing. On the second time through it’s the lyrical sculpting that leaves an impression. The third time, the tasteful uses of the studio – doubled vocals, female voice, organ, bells and Dobro – spring to life. Language Room’s offering is a very serious effort by a conscious band to bring substance – both musical and lyrical – into pop music. It is worthy of equally serious consideration by those who like a helping of density in their ears.
3.5 stars (out of 5)
by Justin Patch
1. Kitchen Table
2. Playing God
3. Playing God
6. It’s All Just…
7. This Tall
8. Pills For A Lie
9. Taking Life All Wrong
10. She Walks
11. The Way We Are
13. Elephant Song