Sleep City – Distance & Age
Record Label: Tragic Hero Records
Release Date: July 9 2013
In every genre, there are very popular bands, and very underrated bands or artists. Post-hardcore is no exception, but the only popular bands in the genre that I hear about constantly are Sleeping With Sirens, Pierce the Veil, Of Mice & Men, Bring Me the Horizon, Motionless In White, Black Veil Brides, and a few others. There are plenty of bands that are thrown under the rug, so to speak, because that’s just not what kids are excited about. Lately, a rather new sound has been emerging in post-hardcore, which is a strange combination of no or minimal harsh vocals, progressive rock/experimental guitar tones and synth riffs, and a very wonderful vocalist, who has quite a voice. The main bands that come to mind are Hands Like Houses and I the Mighty, who have been released albums this year. Another band that hasn’t gotten much press is Rhode Island post-hardcore / progressive rock band Sleep City. They’re not quite as popular, but they should be, especially after releasing debut record on Tragic Hero Records, Distance & Age. Sleep City is one of those bands that I’ve been a fan of, but never really listened to much more of, either. I heard some songs, and enjoyed them, but never a full released. I’ve always wanted to, so I was quite excited when Distance & Age was announced earlier this year. I didn’t necessarily have any reason to be excited, other than Sleep City is a band I’ve always wanted to delve into. After getting the opportunity to review it, I’m certainly glad I took it. This record is interesting, because I didn’t have any expectations going into it, so it was completely new to me. And with that being said, how was it? The only thing I knew prior to listening to this (from listening to a few of their older songs from their last EP) was that they had a post-hardcore sound, but Distance & Age brought to mind bands like Circa Survive, Emarosa, and Hands Like Houses rather than Sleeping With Sirens and Pierce the Veil. Their lyrics may cross into cheesy and cliché territory at times, but they’re easily overlooked when compared with everything that makes this record very enjoyable.
The record starts with the title track, and immediately, their vocals and guitarwork come into play, setting the stage for the entire record. Their vocalist is one slight problem I have through this record, and I’ll get that criticism out of the way right now. I don’t dislike their vocalist, and in fact, he’s very enjoyable. The problem I have is that he’s not very charismatic and doesn’t stick out too much. He doesn’t have the same charisma that the frontmen of bands like Letlive and Hands Like Houses have, who still have “personalities” in terms of vocally, but also let the rest of the band do their thing, too. He’s got plenty of range, but it’s more showcased on the few acoustic tracks on the record. His voice just isn’t as powerful as others in the genre, so the more “aggressive” songs fall slightly flat. The opening track is a more aggressive track, and even though it does set the stage nicely for the album, it’s not one of my favorite tracks. One of my favorite tracks comes in the form of third track “Worn Down.” This is why I enjoy this band and this record – this song is a progressive-rock/post-hardcore song, but it’s got a very catchy chorus, and could easily work in the “mainstream.” This is a band that has a lot of appeal. While Hands Like House and I the Mighty are bands who are more out there, Sleep City still manages to keep pop sensibility into their sound, which does help them to stand out a bit. Even so, I liken this band to being the “little brother” of these bands, because they’ve got plenty of talent and potential, but they’re just starting to get their name out there. The other two bands aren’t quite mainstream-level popular, either, but at least they’re a bit more well known in the genre. Sleep City isn’t quite there yet, so it’ll take a bit more for them to really get there. It’s a song like this that really showcases everything great about their sound.
While that is a great sound to have, the record can get a bit dull sometimes, in the sense that they rely on it too much. A few songs really deviate from this formula, such as “Four Walls,” “Four Seasons Love,” and “Numbers,” and ultimately, these are the real highlights of the album. “Four Walls” and “Four Seasons Love” are two acoustic “ballad” tracks that appear on the record. The former also has a female vocalist, and the two of them perform a bit of a duet. This is also what I meant by their vocalist sounding much better on these tracks, because his voice is well suited for songs like these. The only problem is that the record has three main “sounds.” It switches from acoustic ballad, to progressive pop-rock, to post-hardcore. Only a few songs have a more post-hardcore sound, such as the title track, and “Nothing to Lose,” which has some expert guitar noodling, akin to Dance Gavin Dance’s later work, and Circa Survive. It’s actually quite impressive, even if it does feel like they put those guitar riffs there, because they sounded cool. They are really cool, so we can’t really fault them for that, and it does help to expand on their progressive meets pop-rock sound. Last track “Numbers” is also one of the highlights of the record, because it’s the most ambitious track on the record. It’s the longest also, being around 5 minutes. It’s not quite a ballad, but not quite an aggressive track, either. It’s got elements of both, and it’s certainly quite catchy, too.
The problems I have with this record are quite minimal, and I went over them, for the most part. The vocals aren’t as charismatic and powerful as other vocalists in the genre, so they fall slightly flat in some places, despite being very solid throughout. The instrumentation is very tight-knit throughout the record, even if there aren’t too many tracks that show off the intricate guitar noodling. And the record does tend to switch between a few different sounds, which are acoustic ballad, progressive rock with a pop hook, and progressive rock meets post-hardcore. This isn’t a bad thing, because they do switch it up, but hearing a few acoustic tracks in a row does get rather tiring after awhile.