The best part about any art is when you can see someone succeed with honesty and reckless abandon. Like, they don’t care what the world thinks and they’re just going to make the art they know they can make. The best writers are the ones who can be completely honest with themselves and their thoughts (which is something I struggle with on occasion), the best actors are the ones who can engulf themselves fully in the character they want to portray, and the best musicians are the ones who can say this is the sound I want to make and I will make it. The Envy Corps have clearly made something that is exactly what they wanted and how they wanted, and the result is one of the year’s best albums.
The Envy Corps’ struggle as professional musicians have been talked about a lot over the years, and I won’t rehash them all here. But through record label machinations, health scares and just bad luck, The Envy Corps aren’t as highly recognized as a band of their talent should be. They made beautiful indie rock/pop songs like “Story Problem”, “Sylvia” and “Rhinemaidens” that garnered them worldwide fans and spots playing with some of the most popular bands in the US and UK. But a few unfortunate turns had them split with their label and go it on their own. It seems that the struggles they’ve had focused outward into this brilliant piece of music called It Culls You.
This album is the Envy Corps everyone is familiar with and also a new more focused Envy Corps that is both more honest and more adventurous than anything they have done before. The “ooh” refrain from the first track “Make It Stop” is of the same playbook they’ve had for years, but following it up with the distortion guitar heavy “Ms Hospital Corners” was a bold step to show that maybe we aren’t dealing with the same band we’re used to. Songs like “Palace on Stilts” and the two part song “Fools” show that they understand what their sound was and have refined it. But songs like “Med Song” and especially “Exchequer” show that there is something more than just the sugary pop rock we‘re used to.
But beyond what the It Culls You has to say as an album, there is a more subtle level to what is happening. The songs are clearly influenced by their time in London with “Ms Hospital Comers” sounding a lot like a Muse B-Side and clear influences from UK bands like The Editors, White Lies and, of course, Radiohead throughout. Hearing those subtle and overt influences made me think of their time as a surging London band and not a Des Moines band. It reminded me of some of the things the band has gone through in a way that no mere lyric can do.
But then there are parts where you can see the US Top 40 influence with a simple guitar and a Brian Wilson or Fleet Foxes dreamy pop sound. Singer Luke Pettipoole’s trademark whine does many things to help that as well. The changes his voice makes show a bit of a sensitivity but also a strength beneath it, and Brandon Darner‘s guitar work is superlative, being both subtle and overwhelming when the situation calls for it.
This album had a lot of high expectations coming in, with it being the first LP since their Vertigo Records debut Dwell was released over three years ago. But with a ton of honesty, a lot of focus and a little chip on their shoulder The Envy Corps have succeeded in exceeding even those high expectations. The album is available for download right now at their website and will be available in stores in early October.
Try Not To Miss Shows – Sept 1 – Sept 7
Louis Logic with The D.O.P.E. Clique, The Scaletippers and Phantom Balance – Vaudeville Mews Sept. 2 10pm
A weird (in a good way) mix between drunken follies hip-hop and sweet romance, Louis Logic is a soild MC worth checking out, and the D.O.P.E. Clique is some of Des Moines finest.
Why Make Clocks – House of Bricks Sept. 3 9pm
Local favorites who Ive mentioned before and will likely have a full write up soon. Perfectly enjoyable rock music.
HotChaCha with La Strange, Sad F*cks, Elizabeth Arynn – Vaudeville Mews Sept 3 10pm
Girls playing punk. Always a crowd pleaser. And once again, go see La Strange if you haven’t yet.
Wasn’t a lot going on this week. If you think I missed something, feel free to mention it in the comments. Also, if you’re a local bar, club, venue, band or whatever, feel free to add my email, email@example.com, to your mailing list so I can potentially cover your shows.