I Can See Mountains

Life On A Houseboat

Written by: TL on 12/09/2013 11:26:02

In early January last year, a little known indie/punk-rock band called I Can See Mountains put out an EP called "Hope You Never Get It" to little media hype or fanfare, which I ended up seeing as a bit of a shame, since my chance encounter with it left me with a lasting appreciation for songs like "Stale Parade" and especially "Hey Man!", both of which showcased the sort of irresistable melodies that stay in your head for days each time you hear them. It is with some anticipation then, that I've been looking forward to the Buffalo quintet's first full length "Life On A Houseboat", which arrived on July 2nd this summer, yet straight away I'll admit that I've taken two months to review it for a reason, namely that I've had a great deal of trouble having the new stuff resolve my expectations.

Firstly though, I should introduce the sound for the many readers that might be new to the band, and this is a hard thing to do because it's hardly comparable many other bands. Elements from mid-west emo, indie and punk-rock blend freely in I Can See Mountain's soundscape, making for a style that's bright, up beat and very modern sounding in both attitude and production, yet still kept minimalist in terms of restraining from the use of any in-organic, larger-than-life effect pedals. The result is a bright, melodic punk-rock slightly reminiscent of bands like Carpenter, Spraynard or Man Overboard.

While the band's instrumentals provide an enjoyable and textured background however, they rarely steal the show, leaving the main story to be about the ebb and flow of the group's dual-headed vocal approach; a carefully arranged back-and-forth between two intentionally sloppy punk-rock vocals, one higher and one lower, and the gang shouts of all bandmembers. And when I say the main story is about the vocal work, what I mean is that "Life On A Houseboat" lives and dies chiefly by the waxing and waning strength of its vocal melodies.

The prime examples are "Snake Eater" and "She's My Bobby Orr" at track four and five, both of which show off just how undeniably catchy the band can be at its best, courtesy of the lines where the former recites its title and the latter sings "What are the chances that you'll take me home?" Other examples are given when opener "One Mirror, Two Bodies" drops a line about "dancing to your favourite David Bowie song", while the title track gets a chorus going just repeating it's own name and "I Play The Fox" has some fun with lines about California, Brian Wilson and Beach Boy records.

The problem is that it's an on/off allure, with each catchy, compelling instance separated by stretches that I struggle to describe in other ways than flatly saying they're less engaging. Basically for each moment my eyes widen and I'm ready to really like this record, there's a following period of my attention drifting while I'm waiting for the next good bit. The long and short of it then, is that I'm not completely nor consistently drawn in by "Life On A Houseboat". It has its fair share of moments to engage the listener temporarily, and that makes it a fun listen, but sadly, it never quite delivers on the promise I found in that "Hey Man!" chorus melody I loved so much on the prior EP.

Download: Life On A Houseboat, Snake Eater, She's My Bobby Orr
For The Fans Of: Carpenter, Spraynard, Man Overboard
Listen: facebook.com/icanseemountains

Release Date 02.07.2013
Panic Records

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