The Explorers Club
When a new band crafts a handful of tracks that they consider to be of the utmost quality, they are often faced with one of the first major decisions that they will make as a band. They could either hold on to the allegedly successful tracks and simply throw them onto their debuting album, or they could release them in EP form immediately and generate a hopeful amount of buzz for a debut album that would be released a year or two later. The drawback of the latter is that fans could potentially get disappointed if the other tracks on the album do not match the caliber of the earlier tracks, as the long margin of time between the EP and debuting album would leave enough room for the tracks on the EP to grow on the listener and eventually wear themselves out; it would likely leave the album with that feeling of discontent that many compilations grant a listener. A logical way for the band to prevent this, of course, would be to craft songs on the album that either match or exceed the quality of the tracks that were already released, leaving the listener with both old songs to rediscover and new ones that they can swoon over for the first time.
We saw an example of this sticky decision-making process last year with Voxtrot, the five-piece from Texas who released three massively acclaimed EPs before their self-titled debut album last May. While the debut was enjoyable, many fans (including myself) found themselves more accustomed to the style demonstrated on their earlier EPs, considering the quality of songwriting a step back from their earlier efforts. They will likely continue to have a successful career, but it was clear that both critics and fans were enamored with their predating material and it left some people asking whether or not the band was already on a decline. This year, The Explorers Club will be facing many of the similar questions. They release their debut album, Freedom Wind, on May 20th, preceded by a four-song EP that was released in 2006. 3 of the 4 tracks on their eponymous EP are included on Freedom Wind, including the undeniably exceptional “Forever” and “Don’t Forget the Sun”. When I first looked at the tracklisting, I have to admit that a feeling of initial doubt came over me. I loved both “Forever” and “Don’t Forget the Sun” to death when they were originally released nearly two years ago and I feared that the newer tracks would pale in comparison. However, as it turns out, my symptoms of doubt were simply rooted in the wavering confidence I had in the band, a feeling that has been rightfully corrected in the excellent Freedom Wind.
As I mentioned earlier, “Don’t Forget the Sun” has been a favorite of mine for a long time. In fact, going into the listening process of Freedom Wind, I had already accepted the fact that it would take a lot for a song to overtake it. True enough, it remains my favorite song by The Explorers Club in general, but it is heavily apparent throughout Freedom Wind that the newer tracks exhibit the same successful formula that made earlier songs like “Don’t Forget the Sun” so memorable. With that in mind, I doubt that you will ever read a review about The Explorers Club that does not mention Brian Wilson or The Beach Boys; “Don’t Forget the Sun” is a perfect example of why The Explorers’ Club take on nostalgic ’60s pop is one of the best interpretations of the past several years. The overlapping vocal harmonies that take place during the track resembles Wilson’s most melodically invigorating moments, with the warm clap-based rhythm section, sprinkling of keys, and sporadic bursts of brass attributing to the immediate infectiousness as well. Three members in The Explorers Club share vocal duties and they do a fantastic job all throughout the album, most notably on “Hold Me Tight”, the lush “Safe Distance”, and the twangy “In the Country”. All of them look to be in their 20s as well, making their ability to capture the greatest moments of ’60s pop and surf-rock even more impressive.
Many of those who were already familiar with The Explorers Club will also recognize “Forever”, another track off the debuting EP that seemed to capture the most buzz among music publications. Its contemporary take on ’60s pop makes “Forever” somewhat reminiscent of That Thing You Do! soundtrack and other somewhat recent movies whose scores are focused on an accessible vein of throwback pop, which also means that visions of The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and The Zombies remain heavily prevalent in the process. Soaring falsettos, big-time hooks, and grandiose choruses… they are all most immediately discovered on the most radio-friendly tracks on the album, specifically “Forever” and “Do You Love Me?”. Those these will soothe the impatient listeners, the subtle beauties of several other tracks make them more enjoyably in the long-term. “Honey I Don’t Know Why”, for example, toys with raspy blues and melodic ’60s pop in the same track, distinguished respectively by verse and chorus. “But somethings gotta change, for my life needs to rearrange,” they sing somberly during the dreamy chorus. “‘Cause I’m gonna make you see that I’m gonna, I’m gonna do better now.” So even though my favorite track on Freedom Wind is an old favorite, the similar quality displayed on the rest of the album makes the listen just as worthwhile. It drops just in time for summer too, being the perfect type of album to blast in the car with the ocean’s breeze blowing in your face. It’s true… most of us are only a month or two away from the warm embrace of summer.
- Brian Wilson
- Don't Forget
- I Don
- titled debut album