The Appleseed Cast
ow I’m no doctor, that’s not what I went to school for, but what I do know about the human body is that almost every portion of it is intensely important to it continuing function. Whatever created us, evolution, God, both, etc. has us refined to the point where our bodies are incredibly complex machines capable of amazing feats. One of these feats, of course, is the creation of complete works of art. Things that have no breaks, but work together intimately towards a greater end. Critical discourse regarding The Appleseed Cast’s last album was a rare consensus: the album was nearly flawless top to bottom. Each moment fed into the next and, despite its double disc length, the album engaged the listener for its entire duration.
The hidden secret to the album, however, lay in its quieter moments, the musical passages that gave the listener a break from normal song structures and allowed one to float along. It was this connective tissue for the album that vaulted it from mere greatness into brilliance. Which brings us to the group’s sixth album, Two Conversations. A far more stripped down affair, a single disc encompassing ten songs, only one longer than five minutes, the album contains none of the connective tissue that made Low Level Owl a living and breathing organism.
Two Conversations, on the other hand, is divided into two halves. The groups sound varies slightly between the two divisions that make up its length, but overall the sound is always tied back to the new sonic direction forged on Low Level Owl. That is, a sort of shoegaze meets indie meets emo hybrid that sounds far better than the genre descriptors would suggest.
“Hanging Marionette” is the highlight of the first conversation that takes place. Two guitar riffs interlock around a few keyboard notes as Christopher Crisci’s vocals add the typical minimalist emotional content. The chorus is the key, acting as a majestic and joyous peon to Crisci’s continued pleas for someone to “stay with me in this time.” The song ends with an extended second portion that builds steadily into the next song. Perfect mix tape fodder.
The second conversation’s obvious apex comes in its opening song: “Sinking.” The song begins with a simple acoustic guitar and piano melody mirroring each other. As the song progresses it becomes clear that the band is successfully mimicking the feeling of sinking into something- depression, hatred or even boredom. Whatever it is, it isn’t pleasant, as the song ends in a mess of distorted electronics very abruptly, signaling that this is a conversation with a completely different tone.
It could be argued with the help of lyrics that the two conversations present in this album could be explicated to be the beginning and ending of a relationship. Whatever the narrative construct of the album, however, what is clear is the fact that this album is a return to a more pop and focused approach to song writing, especially with the appearance of vocals on every single song here.
The danger of the album, however beautiful it comes out, is in its adherence to the construct of two conversations. By using this simple conceit, the group paints itself into a corner and, as such, loses one of the elements that pushed their previous elements towards genius. In the end, it’s a construction that is missing something essential. A beautiful robot. But still a robot.