The exclusionary indie aesthete has become something of an endangered species in recent years; the sheer ubiquity of culture, both pop and otherwise, has leveled the genre playing field.
The prominence of the iPod too has had a hand in that, ushering us into a Shuffle Era, where the eclectic mixing arena of musical styles has progressed from our hard drives to our entire musical outlook. As a result it’s not uncommon for our music listening patterns to flow, somewhat seamlessly, from pop rock acts like, say, Maroon 5, to the more adventurous endeavors of Radiohead, the complex textures of post-rock indie outfits like the Sea and Cake and onto the soul rock of Stevie Wonder and operatic oddities of Queen. Sometimes, with a young act like Boston’s The Shills, you can hear a little of each over the course of one album. Nevermind shuffling between bands, just let their third, self-recorded effort “Ganymede” play out.
“The four of us have different musical backgrounds, but have found a common ground and been influenced by each other to create something new,” explains the band’s guitarist Eric Ryrie. “We take a very thoughtful and considered approach to making something that people haven’t heard before. We want to challenge ourselves, but we want people to be able to connect with what we’re doing.”
What they’re doing on “Ganymede” is blurring boundary lines between “serious” indie rock and more user-friendly pop. Although it’s probably not a concern that they’d cop to, or that you’d even really notice as a listener unless you were over thinking things. But the result is a record with enough shifting rhythms and interlocking guitar textures on a track like the propulsive “Janus” to hold the attention of more cerebral fans, but a dedication to mainstream balladeering that wouldn’t sound out of place on pop radio, if they even still have that by the time this comes out.
Whatever other varied points of influence you may pull from the record, the initial, and probably lasting one comes in songs like “Maybe I’ll Stay Around” where vocalist Bryan Murphy’s breathy falsetto carries the aching burden. There was a time not too far back where every other band was doing that Jeff Buckley thing, but it seems fresh again now.
“We are Jeff Buckley fans, but it’s not a conscious influence,” says Ryrie. “Bryan gets a lot of comparisons due to the range of his voice, but that’s more or less where the comparisons end.”
Another point of departure: there’s very little, if any, talk of love here; it’s a romantic record without the romance.
That sort of thoughtful lyrical content might end up precluding any hypothetical Top 40 spot, but then again The Shills seem comfortable inhabiting the in between spaces anyway.
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