The Tower and The Fool - How Long
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Record Label: Run For Cover Records
It’s not too hard for a songwriter or a poet to write a song or poem that is meaningful to himself or herself. It’s self-expression – if one writes as a utility to express oneself, everything should be meaningful to at least that one person. I don’t think we listen to music because we want to be the subject of a venting session…that’s why most songwriters and poets aren’t heard on a wider scale. Those who manage to turn their self-expression into something more relatable, to the point where they can make you feel something or maybe even express something you’re going through better than you can, are the ones who get heard far and wide.
And if that really were the criteria for getting your music heard by droves of people, How Long would make The Tower and The Fool a household name. The album is essentially a 10-track, 41-minute outpouring of (mostly sad) emotion delivered through extremely suitable, mid-tempo rock music. The first part of the record successfully shows what The Tower and The Fool is all about – it begins with opener “Dive Bar,” one of the faster songs on the album that sees Alex Correia taking lead vocals. It’s a deceivingly happy-sounding indie rock number and Correia shows off the sober, evocative delivery that listeners became familiar with on the two-song XIII. “Scoliosis” gives us the first taste of Chris Rosenquest’s vocals over bluesy guitar and piano complementing each other. Rosenquest’s more gruff delivery gives the band a decidedly Counting Crows feel, and the honest “Fade Away” ties different parts of the band’s sound together with its slower tempo and dual vocals.
How Long is a thoughtful take on a bluesy Americana style that is probably executed best in its slower songs. The title track might be the best example of this, with Rosenquest wondering, “How long, well how long am I going to feel this way?” His solemn execution here is almost tangibly sad, as the usually swelling guitars take a backseat in a subtle but moving way. Strings are eventually introduced, and later more deliberate guitars move in to provide an escalating instrumental portion that begins with about 50 seconds left in the song. As the guitars build on the strings, the song breaks down and we’re left with Rosenquest’s last thoughts: “Well she might not know it but she wears my heart on her sleeve / Cause I stitched it on tight that last day in November / The last day that she had seen me.” During the song, The Tower and The Fool manages to convey a heavy amount of emotion without once coming across too self-involved or burdened, a key in the album’s lasting value.
“My Heart Is Dead In NYC” and “Valentine’s Day” provide a more uplifting sound following the weight of the title track, transmitting a full-on Americana vibe, especially the Tom Petty-ish “Valentine’s Day.” The former of the two tracks was featured on XIII, along with “Die Alone,” which still stands as a highlight near the album’s end. The organ here works well and makes me wish it were more prevalent in earlier tracks. The faster songs showcase another valuable characteristic from the record in the form of impressive production. It isn’t overwhelming on the quieter songs and suits the faster ones nicely. The closing “Who Does She Think She Is?” takes the plucking of an acoustic guitar and Rosenquest’s vocals for a simple, elegant finish to How Long.
The Tower and The Fool’s debut LP is a shockingly beautiful take on a brand of rock music that seems relatively new. In a time when a lot of bands are exploring the loud-quiet-loud stamp of the genre, the infusion of blues and Americana and the slower pace of How Long makes it stand out. It’s a heavy in an emotional sense record, but it’s a record that is probably among the best five pieces of music in any genre to be released this year.