Review : As Tall As Lions - You Can't Take It With You
SputnikmusicIt’s been two years in the making, but for the blues drenched alt-rock outfit As Tall As Lions, their third and long awaited LP, You Can’t Take It With You, is the one that almost got away. After trudging their way though a myriad of problems and near-break ups, three producers and eleven soulfully impassioned songs later, it may have all been worth it. After all, with an album as intricately textured and beautifully composed as this, the Lions have finally managed to create what just might be the best damn thing they’ve ever done. Whereas much of their previous work showcased a band flexing the muscles of their own songwriting prowess, it was a case of too much, too soon, with the band diving headfirst into every (usually great) idea and splashing around with a sense of wonderment that reflected the band’s youthful gaze towards making music. Older fans looking out for a repeat of the indulgence of songs like the ever popular “Love Love Love (Love Love)” (which breathed excess from within its very name) and “Stab City” are unlikely to find them here. Not that it’s too much of a problem of course, because for the first time it’s possible to hear where the Lions have held back, marking out subtle spaces with a thoroughly organic approach that has finally allowed atmosphere and attitude to co-exist in a wonderful display of orchestration.
It’s a newfound confidence that's clearly evident from the get go, with opener “Circles” being perhaps the best thing to ever happen to the Lions – or the worst, depending on who you ask; says guitarist Saen Fitzgerald about the captivating percussion on the track: “Our hands were nearly bleeding at one point… I wasn’t able to close them for the next day and a half.” And in keeping with the sweat and tears, “Circles” comes off as unquestionably alive, living and breathing though its warm progression of widely spaced melody, hinting at influences real or imagined from indie stalwarts like Broken Social Scene. You Can’t Take It With You also finds the band at its most artsy, having taken chopsticks to Coke bottles in the jazz-lounge optimism of “The Narrows” and bleating into $10 megaphones on the bluesy bar room mood setter of “We’s Been Waiting”, having tweaked and tinkled with sounds to verge on an experimentalism as yet unseen by the band. Nevertheless it’s a record that remains thoroughly imbued with the Lions’ trademark pop sensibility, never coming off as challenging or hard to listen to, but simply charming in its affectionate, groove ridden approach....full text
AllmusicAs Tall as Lions made a late-aughts splash on the indie music scene with a sound characterized by Coldplay-esque melodicism, U2-ish ethereal guitar textures, and the supple, soaring, Jeff Buckley-influenced lead vocals of singer Dan Nigro. On You Can't Take It with You, the Long Island-based group continued in much the same vein as on its 2006 self-titled release, matching the abovementioned sonic palette with kinetic drum'n'bass beats and heaping helpings of old-fashioned rock energy. Sounding at once accessible and inscrutably mysterious, "In Case of Rapture" bristles with a nervous energy that should please emo fans, but remains densely textured enough to appeal to listeners with an ear for the progressive. "Circles" starts out softly melancholy, with a vocal that recalls Art Garfunkel or Elliott Smith before eventually exploding into a guitar freakout underpinned by tense, wiry, claustrophobic rhythms. Throughout, You Can't Take It with You represents the sound of a band striking a delicate balance between emotional directness and artful experimentation....full text
TinymixtapesAs Tall As Lions has Leprosy. Shrouded in misplaced atmospherics and telephoned vocals, the band seems intent on keeping their listeners at arm’s length. You Can’t Take It With You is vague, cluttered, and often downright boring. The band seems disingenuous, fleeing a monster they can’t quite define and leaving us to take their weak accounts with plenty of salt. While occasionally stumbling onto some attractive guitar tones and reassuring choruses, As Tall As Lions spend 50 minutes saying a whole lot about very little.
Confidence issues have plagued As Tall As Lions since their inception in 2001. Lineup changes, fickle labels, and stress-induced anxiety left the band shaken. But instead of channeling their problems into head-on critiques of a faithless world, they still sound scared to get out of bed. The propulsion of their arena-rock-upon-dub self-titled album is absent. You Can’t Take It With You lacks engagement, soggy and confessional rather than conversational and engrossing.
Inflated opener “Circles” shows virtuosity with fiery drums and cracked-whip guitar, but is curdled by inane lyrics and the convergence of their instruments into an indescript mush. Singer Dan Nigro cries, “I thought I heard you coming up the stairs,” but imagining him wallowing in his room and waiting for company is utterly depressing. “Sixes and Sevens” is a case study in forced rock writing, the result of sitting down with a blank sheet and a blurry head. “Every step we take goes backwards/ Not sure what we’re heading towards” is embarrassingly accurate, as everyone plays their guitars and no one plays a melody....full text
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