Apollo Run - Here Be Dragons, Vol. III
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: Sept. 25, 2012
Some people argue that overambitious people can often lead messy and skewed lives. Tell that to Brooklyn's Apollo Run. On their debut album Here Be Dragons, Vol. III they make very few if any mistakes. Album opener "The Inevitable Small Rebellions," is sun-drenched and urgent and drips with charisma. Buttressed by rising horns and layered vocals it is a Beatles-esque affair that is absolutely impossible to dislike. But indeed, the fun is just beginning.
The rattling "Desire," draws on winning piano lines and a sense of pacing that is brisk and bubbly. Mildly dabbling into prog territory, the song is another bursting and brawny effort from a band who so far has yet to take a misstep. That sense of flawlessness is reiterated on the electro-tinged "Bending the Light," an urban and nocturnal cut with hints of Brit-rock that has armfuls of swagger and swerve. The orchestra-backed "Act IV," moves in a way that is not unlike Elbow, Starsailor or Travis. Vocalist John McGrew throws his best foot forward and offers up a delicate valentine to a very lucky significant other. And it is here that one must pause and marvel at McGrew's vocals. Channeling strains of both Jeff Buckley and Freddie Mercury he has an arena-ready voice that demands attention.
As for the rest of the album, well there's not very much to hate. The soft and gauzy "Pay it Forward," borrows on the electro-vibe of "Bending the Light," but goes deeper. A twinkling five-minute affair that opens up into a pleading and barreling tour-de-force it is another high water mark for a disc that is still not even halfway done. The first half of Here Be Dragons, Vol. III ends with "That Lovers Make," a towering and triumphant slab of melodramatic mood rock that ends the first half fittingly.
The B side opens with "Sirens," which begins quietly and pushes itself into something darker, deeper and ultimately, very moving. But the second half's best song and arguably the disc's best effort is the languorous and cottony "Vertigo." In those brief four minutes, the band sounds comfortable, relaxed and lucid. That's not to say they aren't lucid on the previous seven, but for some reason everything comes more into focus and the results are nothing short of stunning. If you only download one song from Here Be Dragons, Vol. III, make sure it's "Vertigo."
After the brief respite, the band ratchets up the sonic intensity on the barreling "Devil in Disguise." Piano-based (like most of their songs) and punchy it is another inspired effort from a band that does very little long. The album's penultimate cut is "Autumn Song," a twinkling and gloaming affair that builds on the same veneer as "Vertigo," but dresses it up more elegantly. That sense of elegance is revisited on album closer "Ruby," an airy and ethereal affair that features the layered vocal work and horns from the disc's earlier moments and marries them with the latter half's sensitivity.
And that very fact should not be overlooked. Talented and ambitious bands know how to tie together a work, to make it cohesive, consistent and worth repeating. Here Be Dragons, Vol. III accomplishes that, and for that Apollo Run should be championed. This is a fine disc from a fine band who deserves far more attention than they have received thus far. But let this review be the bellwether. Apollo Run are a seriously good band with a seriously good debut album under their belt. One listen to Here Be Dragons, Vol. III, proves exactly that.