Album of the Week: Debut LP from Winnipeg Band Departures
From Winnipeg, Canada, the band Departures are perhaps one of the most understated new bands of 2012. The band’s constantly shifting post punk and indie rock influences are apparent in the tangle of angular melodies, layering of guitars, shadowy synths, understated rhythms, and vocals that range from hauntingly hushed to shouting, throughout their debut album, Still and Moving Lines, which has been earning the band the all-important ‘blogger buzz’ and increasingly, recognition from the more mainstream, established press.
“For a band that’s only one album in,” wrote Evan Minsker of Pitchfork, “it’s impressive that they can seamlessly execute so many sonic shifts.” Tim Sendra, who writes for the All Music Guide, gave the album 4.5 stars out of five, writing: “…most of the album is restrained and doles out its pleasures in less immediate fashion. It may take a little effort to get to the pleasures…but it is definitely worth it because Still and Moving Lines is an impressively assured debut.”
Still and Moving Lines is a ‘grower’ – generally, the more you listen to it, the more likely you’re bound to come to appreciate just how good it is. The song that stands out the most on the first spin is “Pillars.” The blazing, melodic guitar jamming countered with edgier power chords, frantic rhythms, crashing cymbals, and shouting vocals on “Pillars” makes it seemingly the most accessible tracks on the album.
The loudest, most energetic songs on the LP were wisely put back-to-back at the top of the track listing. But first, the opening track of the album is the haunting 72-second “At Rest, at Home,” followed by “Pillars” and “Being There,” the latter is a nearly five-minute onslaught of loud, distorted guitar layers grinding away, rapid-fire bass thumping, and furious drumming.
Departures takes the listener on adventurous, mysterious sonic journeys throughout the course of the 10-track LP, from melancholic electric experimentation, free form angular guitar jams and sluggish rhythms to full-on screeching, angst-driven walls of noise comprised of tangled, chaotic blasts of reverb and feedback. A couple of worthwhile examples include songs like “Cartwright, MB” and “Contempt.”
Another highlight (among many) on the album is the muffled “Winter Friend,” which conveys a sense of the frigid, isolating environment where nearly half of the year is spent indoors to stay warm. The song starts out with an erie, David Lynch meets X-Files sounding synth, and like other tracks on the album, it slowly builds momentum to a raucous climax. For the band members, the long days of darkness and confinement lend themselves to endless hours of practice, experimentation and honing their skills, which undoubtably facilitated the writing, recording and mixing of a superb album and one of the best debuts of 2012.
The standout song, “Being There,” provides total bliss for lovers of lo-fi post punk where fuzzy, noisy guitars are on a rampage, blazing away unabated. The track also has the best guitar solo of any other on the album. The rhythm section is an integral aspect throughout the album as “Being There” demonstrates – the rhythm is bold, energetic, and calculating, somehow exerting a controlled anarchy. Switching gears, the track “Sleepless” is one of the most upbeat songs on the album, with atmospheric synth riffs, bongo style drumming, some “ooohs and ahhhs” and the calming, hushed vocals of Nicholas Liang, who is often a backdrop to the near constant wall of sound found throughout the LP.
Of the instrumental tracks on the album, the most memorable and poignant is found within the sweet sounds of “Swimming,” a track that conjures up all kinds of relaxing, hazy summer day images, like floating on a raft on a peaceful river surrounded by orange walled canyons, and serving as a contrast to the icier recordings on the album. One of the best aspects of Still and Moving Lines, in addition to its overall brilliance, is that there is absolutely no pandering to appeal to a mass audience. After spinning the album a number of times, listeners may detect the warmth underneath what is often a cold, hard exterior, and possibly come to the conclusion that, in the final analysis, Departures are a jam band, and a very talented one at that. In addition to being one of the best debut albums of 2012, Still and Moving Lines has put Departures on our list for the breakout bands of the year.
To listen to more songs from the album, play Spotify embed below.