Over the past twenty-five years, rock n’ roll as we’ve known it has evolved arguably more than it did in twice the time ahead of the new millennium, and at its purest, most emotional form, it’s produced music in the style of Burn the Ballroom’s Dark Stars & Velvet Skies, a premium indie EP you should get your hands on this summer. As opposed to following trends towards the surreal beat and abandoning much of the straightforwardness that alternative rock was known for some fifteen years ago, Burn the Ballroom are dug in and committed to a fast and furious look in this record that produces some shockingly well-paced and even romantic lyrical emissions. From “Calm Down” to “A Ship That Shared Your Name,” hearts and harmonies are quite bountiful in Dark Stars & Velvet Skies.
Instead of using the mix to separate the finer points in the instrumentation here, Burn the Ballroom deliberately use it as a means of facilitating as much muscularity in the melodies as possible, especially in the piano rockers “Calm Down” and “10 to 1.” “Fall With Me” is the only track here that seems a little understated, but its narrative requires as much to sounds heartfelt and honest rather than too streamlined to be natural. These are players who have taken everything they’ve learned over the years and used it to get better rather than just more consistent at what they were already good at, and if there’s one thing their peers should be copying about their style, that’s it.
There’s a lot on the line in the music video for “Still,” but the old-school imagery in this piece relates more to the self-consciousness of the lyricism than it does any desire to make a throwback visual experience in this release. One of the most redundant things a band can produce when trying to make something really passionate is an homage to anything or anyone, but this is an instance in which the irony of the aesthetic does a lot to convey that especially soulful narrative Burn the Ballroom are flirting with in this performance. You’ve got to hand it to them for originality, and more importantly, for developing an artistic versatility that can allow them to venture outside predictable realms far more than their contemporaries ever would.
Dark Stars & Velvet Skies is admittedly not what I was expecting to hear in the new EP from Burn the Ballroom, but rather something that took me by surprise and made me a little more curious about what this band is trying to cultivate in this next chapter of their career together. They’re certainly going one way while everyone else is going the other, i.e. stripping down their music to the nuts and bolts of ambient and minimalist pop/rock, but they’re not sounding like the odd men out for one distinct reason – attitude. They’re invested in what they’re doing, and if you were shaky on their credibility ahead of this extended play, its six songs are going to have you feeling really good about who Burn the Ballroom are right now.
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