This week Jakob Battick and Kyle Gervais review a record from a local band that call themselves Nice Places. They put out a 3 song EP that they recorded with Jonathan Wyman and mastered over at Gateway by Adam Ayan -- so even if you hate the songs, at least the record sounds quality! It's a bit of a dip into the experimental with a drop of rock. Check out what Jakob and Kyle think below!
This three track EP is big on instrumental couth, chilly post-rock vibes, and surging tension. It's one of those 'Holy shit, this is local?' sort of releases. Jonathan Wyman made sure to bring bucketloads of stadium-sized atmosphere to the proceedings here, and Nice Places themselves brought a wire-tight yet absolutely glacial approach to songcraft that gives these numbers an absolutely crucial, face-crushing sense of smoldering urgency. Ultimately, there's a certain sense of vocal delivery here that belies an emo upbringing. I can't say for sure where Samuel Belanger is coming from, music-background wise, but I can say that there's a vaguely angsty sensibility prevalent enough in Nice Places' sound as to either turn on or turn off listeners. You'd have to really sit down with their work to reach a conclusion there, as it treads that line of indulgence versus infuriation rather smoothly. In any case, I can say that it reminds me of, say, Circa Survive, and in an absolutely endearing way (keep the spacious, sweeping pseudo-operatics, ditch the teen-drama-meets-oddly-masculine-androgine-revelry, and there you have these dudes.)
I'm not completely sold on these three songs being a substantial, stand-alone type work. This feels more like a lucky preview of a full-length album than anything else, and I can't help but feel like I'd need more to really reach a conclusion on these gents. Nice Places almost has me sold on their sound, their reverb-cloaked rendition of large-scale rock, but this feels like it might fall on its face if it went on too long without any grand variation. I'd be curious to see how, and I suppose 'if', they'd mix it up all that much in a longer format. For now, I'm absolutely tickled.
The debut EP by Nice Places contains three tracks, two actual songs, and the occasional feeling that it could just be one huge eleven-minute jam. The instrumental sections from front to back are complimentary to each other and, aside from floaty transitional sections, never stray outside of the groove-prog that fits the band so well. Opener “The Flood” beings with an interesting melody on keys before exploding into full-band, atmospheric changes accentuated by Samuel Belanger’s wordless vocals, all working perfectly as an intro to “Drowning’s Enough,” the standout on this release.
The band is solid. Drummer Brendan Shea, who was also on the great Old Soul record, plays a heavier, much more powerful style of drums here and just destroys. Michael Whitmore holds down bass duties with tasty, effective lines and guitarist Justin Shea builds a vibe with effects and strong playing, all complimented by keys courtesy of Emily Harvey. Each instrument can be heard distinctly and when everything blends together, it is shockingly greater than the sum of its parts.
While Belanger’s vocals, somewhere between Dan Nigro and Cedric Bixler-Zavala, are good and even surprising at times, it would be nice if the lyrics were a little more accessible and concrete, especially given how emotionally compelling all of the music is. Yes, we’re in prog-land and words that don’t make all that much sense or that conjure up feelings and images rather than real-deal situations or emotions are the norm, but the music is so strong and focused that it’s a pity that the vocals don’t seal the deal. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t bad, but they could be absolutely killer.
Of course, this is under a microscope, and subsequent listens with less attention paid to specifics find the songs flowing nicely, except for about the 2:07-mark through the end of “Drowning’s,” which continues to be jaw-dropping, goosebumb-inducing, head-shakingly good.
Take a listen and/or download for free below.