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Umbrellas - Illuminare Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 7
Musicianship 8.5
Lyrics 8.75
Production 9
Creativity 7.5
Lasting Value 7
Reviewer Tilt 7
Final Verdict: 78%
Member Ratings
Vocals 9.38
Musicianship 9.38
Lyrics 9.83
Production 9.46
Creativity 9.58
Lasting Value 9.17
Reviewer Tilt 9.08
Average: 94%
Inside AP.net

Umbrellas - Illuminare

Reviewed by: Steve Henderson (07/26/06)
Umbrellas Illuminare
Release Date: July 25, 2006
Record Label: The Militia Group


Rating: [7.6/10]

It is always a slippery slope when a solo artist trades up to full-band status. While infinitely increasing opportunities for commercial success, there is an equal threat to any endearing indie quaintness that one-time or long-time fans oft have a tough time accepting. The prime example for this concept is the tale of (now household-name) Chris Carrabba. As a solo artist, his music was chock full of emotion, conviction, and a gorgeous simplicity that resonated with listeners on a personal level, but failed to do the same on a widespread one. Fast forward to the days of full-band Dashboard, and the music is as hollow and glossed-over as ever, but hey, the man (err...band, that is) sells hundreds of thousands of records. So why shouldn't everyone make the same progression (or is it regression)?

Luckily for Scott Windsor, when he abandoned the moniker of Lyndsay Diaries to go full-band with Umbrellas, he had a firm grasp of how he wanted to do it. Instead of simply doing it to render his tunes more commercially viable, Windsor has maintained the most appealing aspects of his former self's music, adding texture and thickness to his already well-evolved, but admittedly humble, skinny songs.

When in previous years, he sculpted songs like “The Consequences of Learning to Fly” and “The City Lights” the secret was pretty much out that Windsor could write brilliant, perhaps even perfect, songs. Illuminare picks up that thread and sets it to loom right away, with the beautiful opener, “Boston White.” An extremely auspicious water mark for the rest of the record, layering Windsor’s trademark fragile vocals over slick guitar effects, “Boston White” sets a soaring standard. However, even this is a bar quite deftly high-jumped by the phenomenal “Again and Again.” Taking a cue from their Brandtson buddies, Scott and the gang toss in a sprinkle of brilliantly restrained electronic underlines beneath once-more seductive, breathy vocals . While the cut is strong as it glides along in time, the track hits an exclamatory climax later on with a sick electro-breakdown peppered with subtle handclaps used oh-so-perfectly here. All of it ends up being so attentively stitched together to make for one of the best songs of 2006.

After the second track, though, Umbrellas turns down the energy and shucks off the confidence in lieu of the more fragile, glassy sound that we expect from Windsor. When exposed to this flipside, one thing becomes increasingly evident. Scott Windsor has been listening to a lot of Death Cab as of late. Esssentially posturing himself as a less likely, but equally unassuming Ben Gibbard, Windsor borrows greedily from “Expo 86” on “Crooked,” and quicksand-sinks into a less appealing set of follow-up tracks thereafter. “Angel and Demon” establishes a playful, almost Smiths-like tune, but in turn, Windsor’s high-tinged croon fails to match the carefree instrumental backdrop. Likewise, “Thinking of You” is a similarly disconnected song, but almost transparently so, as I am not sure anything could mate itself with that oddball chorus (imagine people orgasm-ing to music). This trend continues throughout most of the record’s remainder, as the album loses its bombast and scope, as it seems that Illuminare stops trying to impress its audience, almost content to be relegated to background music status. This recession is broken by the once-more beautiful “Ships,” that conjures up a “Brothers on a Hotel Bed” vibe, but is essentially too little too late to elevate the album to a greater platform standing.

With the final chapter of Illuminare written, the album stands as a solid reminder of Windsor’s surgical songwriting abilities, but too many laurels appear to be rested upon here. The tracks eventually come across as effortlessly constructed, but also, appear to put forth relatively minimal effort to actively engage the listener (with a few exceptions). If you consider Illuminare follows Umbrellas by only a year and a half, this is not surprising, and almost revealing into the process here. Nevertheless, fans of thoughtful, sensitive, and elegant indie rock will do well to check out Illuminare.


Recommended if you like: Aaron Sprinkle, Fair, Death Cab for Cutie, Lyndsay Diaries, Lovedrug, This Day and Age, Copeland
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 37
08:19 PM on 07/26/06
#2
Mercy Medical
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This album just didn't hit me the way the S/T did. I'll agree on the rating.
08:21 PM on 07/26/06
#3
zeketheplmbr
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It's a good album. I think its a little better than their last actually.
08:24 PM on 07/26/06
#4
Ryan Imhof
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Completly agreed.. "Crooked" is Brandtson's "Earthquakes and Sharks" both songs electronics are so great and used perfect spots. Some songs become background music for be too but not to many.. "Crooked" and "Ships" are definitly my favorite songs.
08:24 PM on 07/26/06
#5
YellowNovember
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I think it's a lot better than their last, the title of the album fits the feel of it perfectly.....great review but I would have given it a little bit of a higher rating
08:40 PM on 07/26/06
#6
Russ Hockenbury
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No! No! No! Where is the anecdote that has nothing to do with the band in the opening paragraph?!? Your lack of one word sentences is atrocious! There are no celebrity references in this review. You talk about song structure and explain things in detail. Worst of all, your thoughts are all coherent. I mean, c'mon Steve. Jeebus Christ.
08:42 PM on 07/26/06
#7
Steve Henderson
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Originally Posted by Russ Hockenbury
No! No! No! Where is the anecdote that has nothing to do with the band in the opening paragraph?!? Your lack of one word sentences is atrocious! There are no celebrity references in this review. You talk about song structure and explain things in detail. Worst of all, your thoughts are all coherent. I mean, c'mon Steve. Jeebus Christ.
I must attend the Russ Hockenbury school of (sort of) reviewing. :)
08:42 PM on 07/26/06
#8
I was Brad
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I enjoyed this about the same as the last cd.
08:43 PM on 07/26/06
#9
Julia Conny
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Originally Posted by Russ Hockenbury
No! No! No! Where is the anecdote that has nothing to do with the band in the opening paragraph?!? Your lack of one word sentences is atrocious! There are no celebrity references in this review. You talk about song structure and explain things in detail. Worst of all, your thoughts are all coherent. I mean, c'mon Steve. Jeebus Christ.

I sense a battle and we all have front row seats.
08:45 PM on 07/26/06
Steve Henderson
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Originally Posted by juliapassedout
I sense a battle and we all have front row seats.
His subtle self-deprecation eludes you?
09:31 PM on 07/26/06
meeotch
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very helpful review. this is how i felt about their debut. just seems like they dont really give any effort to push the songs from good to great.
11:25 PM on 07/26/06
ccorces1
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for you to say that scott rested on his laurels or didn't put his entire self into this album is absolutely rediculous. who are you to say such a thing? how would you like it if you speant months of your life working on an album or anything for that matter, only to have someone with remarkably less talent then yourself criticize your work by saying that you didn't put enough into it or that you got lazy and just took the easy way out. while it may be the case for some bands, one of them is not the umbrellas, one word from scott and you can tell that he is not one to give up or take the easy way out
12:47 AM on 07/27/06
p, FRY
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i didnt really feel the emotion, the way i did from the s/t.

good album though, buts its still going to go overlooked just like their old material.
03:34 AM on 07/27/06
Steve Henderson
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Originally Posted by ccorces1
for you to say that scott rested on his laurels or didn't put his entire self into this album is absolutely rediculous. who are you to say such a thing? how would you like it if you speant months of your life working on an album or anything for that matter, only to have someone with remarkably less talent then yourself criticize your work by saying that you didn't put enough into it or that you got lazy and just took the easy way out. while it may be the case for some bands, one of them is not the umbrellas, one word from scott and you can tell that he is not one to give up or take the easy way out
I didn't say that's what he did. It's just what it SOUNDS like.
04:17 AM on 07/27/06
ironcurtains
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... chris carrabba started off in the Vacant Andies (which is a full band) moved to fsf (which, of course, is a full band) and then went to work on some solo stuff for dashboard. so no, he didnt really start as a solo artist. i'm not really sure why you would compare chris carrabba and scott windsor anyways..
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