The Ugly Club - You Belong to the Minutes
Record Label: Self-released via Kickstarter
Release Date: July 17, 2012
For a band that came about by accident, the New Jersey quintet The Ugly Club, sure do make the most of said accident. On their full-length debut album You Belong to the Minutes, the band creates a soundscape that is equal parts lush, buzzy and polished. The disc's lead single "David Foster Wallace," also serves as the album opener and starts things off in a most rewarding fashion. The song is breezy, enveloping and nothing short of stunning. The anchor is vocalist Ryan Egan and his effortless delivery. But the strength of The Ugly Club should not be limited to just Egan as he is aided by a band that has few holes.
The rhythm section of bassist Rick Sue-Poi and drummer Ryan McNulty is air tight and allows "David Foster Wallace," to glide along like a hazy summer afternoon. Aided by nuanced guitar work from Joseph Stasio, ethereal keys from Taylor Mandel, and a buoyant beat, it is an effervescent and amiable opener and easily one of the disc's best songs. But the problem with opening an album with a veritable home-run is trying to swing for the fences on every successive cut. While The Ugly Club do fall short on delivering that result, they don't exactly stumble either.
Equally as strong than "David Foster Wallace," is "Under the Great Wave," a pliant, engaging and cozy affair that has a definitive Brit-rock vibe and employs twinkling synths and airy organs. The song itself has a staying power that is timeless and transcendent and is exactly the kind of song that should vault The Ugly Club out of their current anonymity. Egan has an inherent ability to coast through his songs with a charisma that is magnetic and inviting and nowhere is that more apparent than on the sweetly ringing "Let's Sleep Around," an infectious and indelible cut that starts off simply and builds towards a bursting middle section. The disc's second half is guided by the gorgeous piano-driven "Some Life," a supple and pleasing cut of jangly, mid-tempo melancholia; and "The Mountain," a sinewy and sturdy effort that feels culled from a Portugal the Man recording session.
The disc ends with the six-minute title track, a mini-epic that uses bursting guitars, a jittery chorus and a bevy of ebbs and flows. That kind of herky-jerky structure is something the band wears well but also makes for a tiresome listening experience. While You Belong to the Minutes is certainly strong, that doesn't mean the album is free from mistakes. For all their collective charms, songs like "Wasted on You," "Loosen Up," and "Unraveling You," all feel somewhat pedestrian and uninspired. That these three songs appear on the earlier half of the album prove that despite its winning early moments You Belong to the Minutes is incredibly bottom-heavy.
Being that various members of the band work in a recording studio and are aspiring producers, there's a definitive sense of polish and lucidity that makes You Belong to the Minutes hard to turn away from. That is to say, the album is crisp, layered and confident. This is definitely the sound of a band that has a vision and knows how to achieve it. Being that they are still young and still learning, one has to think that You Belong to the Minutes is only a building block.
While it may be presumptuous, there's a palpable sense that on their sophomore release (whenever it is that it will be released), The Ugly Club has the chance to blow it out of the water and shake up the foundation of indie-rock. They have the talent and they have all the key pieces, it's just a matter of time before it comes together. They proved it early in their career with the near-perfect Sing What You Want EP and they certainly prove it in abundance on this effort. But seven great songs does not make an album or a band. You Belong to the Minutes had a chance to be one-in-a-lifetime, it's up to the band to prove these words true and make that groundbreaking disc. And when it's all said and done, You Belong to the Minutes is not a bad place to start.