The Southland - Influence of Geography Review
by Travis Becker
Somewhere in the quieter recesses of the musical world lurks a band like The Southland. It won't pop out from behind a corner and grab you around the neck, or rattle the walls in the next room, but as you wander around in the great wide expanse of your musical home, you may find yourself humming the gentle strains of Influence of Geography from time to time. Like the rather monochromatic paint-by-numbers that adorns the album's cover, the soundscapes created by The Southland are at times bleak, like the soundtrack for a rainy day, but are just as often subtle and even subliminal. This music represents the shades of grey spread out between the sad and the sublime. Simple and earthy and at the same time sleek like steel and technology, The Southland churns out front porch music for people whose front porches look out onto pounded pavement rather than rolling fields.
The Southland is populated by an eclectic group of influences, from the post-hardcore textures and song-writing of bands like the Dismemberment Plan and Chisel to the Morning View-era acoustic noodling of Incubus with just a dash of industrial city soul and maybe even a little Grateful Dead in the mix. Melody rules the day on this record, and what little percussion there is lurking in the back of the mix is all pretty reigned in. The bass and drums act more or less as a raft for the guitars and keys as they drift along an ocean of delicate melody carried by singer Jed Whedon. Restraint seems an important theme within the music as well. Beyond the tense rhythm section, a feeling that something is about to cut loose, whether raucous guitars or screaming vocals, hangs over every note of the album. While the release of that tension is relegated to a few choruses and the odd heavier number, like "Debris", the emotional ride of the albums works.
Ultimately the glue that holds the whole thing together is strong song writing from Whedon and lead guitarist, Nicholas Kryl Gusikoff. Interesting lyrics and varied song structures help to keep the album engaging from start to finish and the way in which the instruments float in and out of each other's flight plans always makes for a turbulence-free trip. The songs are so strong, in fact, the only miscue in that department is the band's attempt at a cover of the old chestnut, "I Only Have Eyes for You," which comes off sounding a little silly and a lot boring. They even kept the "Shoo Bop Shoo Bop's".
Influence of Geography is still far from perfect. The album can be all over the place at times, which generally works for the band, but more focus on the next album would help it feel more like a unified experience and less like a bunch of great songs that don't have much to do with each other. "Shining Sun" jangles like the Dead, while "Good Grief" could be a psychic channeling of Charlie Brown through the medium of Sublime on a very mellow day. At the end of the day, The Southland fit into the musical puzzle perfectly. They can be a little difficult to wrap you head around, it took a couple of listens, but eventually the music fell right into place between the tired night and the grey morning, a nice little niche all to themselves.
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The Southland - Influence of Geography
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