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Posted August 11, 2008 by Mike Mineo in Features
 
 

The New Up

Though it may erroneously come off as insulting, some groups are better suited at releasing a handful of EPs consecutively instead of churning out one full-length album every few years or so. Artists who follow such a process are in the minority, of course, but those who choose to do so are often propelled by the variability of their stylistic approach when such a decision is made. We have all seen recent indie-rock acts that have tested the waters with a handful of EPs prior to releasing a full-length album, a method that allows the artist to capitalize on obliging forms of constructive feedback that would not be possible outside the studio if a full album was released with little to no impending hype. Both creative and financial resources are conserved; it is a welcoming approach for any bands with obvious talent but a weakness in execution. To no surprise, this method can also bode well for artists who look to improve upon an initial sound that may have had too many faults to begin with. A learning process is certainly part of quality songwriting, and many bands often charge toward the studio prematurely in hopes of their evolving style of play somehow instantly improving with a bit of studio magic. With the right people and ideology, the instantaneous magic has worked before… but certainly not for the most part.

The New Up released an eponymous album in 2004 to marginal reception and a boatload of comparisons to preceding groups of a similar vein, qualities that could very well have been attributed to a style that was wildly comparable to other prominent indie acts at the time. The group’s originality may have occasionally come into question but, considering the group’s high level of cumulative talent, was wisely dismissed by those few who were already familiar with The New Up at the time. The debut was filled with several briskly consuming highlights, but with other groups like Metric and Mates of State capitalizing to a more memorable extent on a capricious form of female-fronted indie-pop, the comparative process led many to believe that The New Up were not fulfilling their potential as songwriters in releasing something that was of a more unique nature. Three years later, they answered the call with Palace of Industrial Hope, an album that was released last year and continues to be somewhat overlooked. Expanding their indie-pop territory into groupings of psychedelia, rock, and funk, longtime fans were finally content and new ones were captivated, although it did not reach as many people as it deservedly should. For this minor issue of exposure though, the group has a plan that may end up being cleverly effective.

While Palace of Industrial Hope was a commendable improvement upon the self-titled debut in terms of melodic content and stylistic diversity, the 5 members seem to be the types who simply are unable to reach a point of contentment when it comes to their art. In music, this type of persistence can work wonders as long as patience and timing are valued by the artist. Considering that it took The New Up over three years to complete the fulfilling follow-up to their debut album, I doubt that those aspects will be an issue. Combine this sense of persistence with the general outlook that Palace of Industrial Hope deserves more attention and you have a new distribution plan set in motion by the five-piece. Over the next 18 months, they will release three EPs that simultaneously introduce both new and old material alike. In addition to including a highlight or two off of Palace of Industrial Hope, each new EP will offer up a handful of new tracks that serve as a continuation of the appealing style of play pursued on Palace of Industrial Hope, a rather interesting strategy that the band hopes will satisfy faithful listeners while they simultaneously seek out potential fans.

The first of the three EPs is entitled Broken Machine, a 5-track effort in which the self-titled track is included after appearing on Palace of Industrial Hope. I imagine that the other two EPs will be named after the pre-released song in question, though that is merely speculation. “Broken Machine” itself was one of my favorites from the album, so I was relieved to find that the EP featured four other unreleased tracks that cohesively surrounded the self-titled track. “Broken Machine” is set against a heavy bass line, a flurry of distorted guitars, and an occasional sprinkling of keys, with Pitcher’s sultry vocals enhancing the sensuous display of alt-rock and post-punk. Most music of the genre tends to be gritty and instrumentally disoriented, but “Broken Machine” emits an unconventional tone of polished anguish and melancholy; it is one of the several components that are responsible for the song’s success. Pitcher’s vocals are absolutely perfect for the style that she, guitarist Noah Reid, “electronics guru” Hawk West, bassist Dain Dizazzo, and drummer Jack McFadden masterfully emanate. Out of the 4 other tracks, “Libations” stands strong for its key-led chorus in which Pitcher and Reid duet impressively. Reid also lays down some impressive guitar work toward the end of the track.

The opening “Ginger Tea” also proves quite memorable, employing a similar formula to that of “Broken Machine” in which bass, guitar, and drums collide with subtle electronic implementations in the form of whirring synths and trickling keys to establish a very consuming result. Pitcher’s vocals are excellent here as well, one of the several facet of success that appears consistently worth mentioning. If you notice by these three featured tracks, they all appear to be in the same realm as “Broken Machine”. Palace of Industrial Hope was an album that saw the five-piece at a stylistically multifarious peak, and I imagine the next two EPs to be somewhat dissimilar in nature because of it. Regardless though, the first of them is a very satisfying affair. In fact, rarely do you come across an EP where the majority of tracks are even better than a preceding album that was impressive in itself. Broken Machine is released tomorrow, so pick that one up in addition to Palace of Industrial Hope if it floats your boat.

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The New Up – Broken Machine

[audio:http://mineorecords.com/mp3/newup-bro.mp3]

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The New Up – Ginger Tea

[audio:http://mineorecords.com/mp3/newup-gin.mp3]

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The New Up – Libations

[audio:http://mineorecords.com/mp3/newup-lib.mp3]

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Mike Mineo

 
I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound. I used to write for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine. Send your music to [email protected].