Review : Extra Life - Dream Seeds
PopmattersWhat’s so bad about Dream Seeds? Well, for starters, nearly everything. Not only is this some of the most trite and over-indulgent songwriting I’ve ever come across, the church pastor-meets-aspiring-opera-singer amateur delivery that its filtered through is painful to sit through. There’s only fleeting moments of intrigue in the musicianship but for the most part the structures and arrangements are a confused mess that serve no real purpose. Those factors alone make Dream Seeds come off as an amateur record, at best, but when the band decides to try and play up their goth-nightmare aspects in the middle of relatively quiet songs, the whole thing just falls apart.
Some vocalists simply aren’t capable of conveying mood, atmosphere, or emotion and Extra Life heavily features one of them. The vocals alone dull any moments that approach even little interest on Dream Seeds like the distorted bass that cuts through “First Song”. Sadly, even after removing the vocals from the equation Dream Seeds still sounds like a total mess and an amateur band failing at finding anything exciting to present. It’s a challenge to sit through any given song but being forced to sit through the album becomes a titanic task that only prompts thoughts of complaint or mockery.
Fortunately, for everyone, Dream Seeds ends up being mercifully short at seven tracks. Even if the closing two tracks run for a brutal 26 and a half minutes combined. That Extra Life think that Dream Seeds warranted that kind of material, speaks very deeply about the seriously deep-rooted problems that are evident with the record from its silent opening. While the concept the lyrics purportedly toy with, the twin themes of children and nightmares, could make for a fascinating record in the hands of someone like Will Sheff or John Darnielle, Extra Life’s primary writer, Charlie Looker, simply does not have the talent to construct that concept into anything resembling a worthwhile clear or even abstract narrative....full text
MxdwnArty alt performers Extra Life have woken from an especially chilling nightmare with Dream Seeds, a woodsy and thematically honed meditation on all things unnerving and autumnal—the stuff of “never tell a soul” secrets, occult rites in the New England woods and sepia-toned little girls in Victorian babydoll dresses. You know, basically all the creepy shorthand imagery custom-built to scare the hell out of us. It doesn’t hurt there’s also an encounter with the “Beast of Years,” presumably the great dragon himself, ha-Satan. So extra points there!
Seeds’ opener, “No Dreams Tonight,” lays the tomb-laden groundwork with wicked aplomb, reacquainting us with a foolproof, age-old paradigm: Little white children in stodgy clothing are absolutely frightening. “No dreams tonight,” mutters an eerily benign voice. Sure, Adeline. Just put the ax down, all right? Chief songwriter and vocalist Charlie Looker proves himself a master of mood and theatre, finger-picking lonesome chords and respiring like some icy ferryman rowing you down the River Styx. “Tonight I’m fucked up, and I don’t wanna know what I know,” he sings with gray weather melisma, dragging out his words like Morrissey if he were a defrocked priest. Then there’s a pennywhistle solo—yes, a pennywhistle solo!—sure to stir even the least of Salem’s witches. If this isn’t American Gothic, what is?
A point vital to this album’s success lay in Hooker’s often intrepid and unlikely word choices. With the lullaby gone wrong “Little One,” what seems like a predatory romance from the perspective of a child stalker, the singer growls “My hands touch you!”—then calmly counters with “I’d make an omelet out of you.” Yeah. The “What’s this guy gonna say next?” factor keeps you on your toes throughout, amply serving the music’s blood and brooding to a tee.
Assuming a number of roles from song to song, Hooker is often of the tortured “knows too much” variety, narrating a series of grimly connected post-traumatic events, crime scenes and ghost stories. In Dream Seeds’ climactic 12-minute closer, “Ten Year Teardrop,” Hooker plays a despondent father who’s forced to bury his daughter after an ill-explained tragedy. He takes “ten years for a tear to hit the ground,” then bang! Our living dead girl returns at the 5:45 mark, crashing and clawing with otherworldly noises—or as Poe would put it, “rapping, rapping at the chamber door.”...full text
TheneedledropExtra Life is an experimental music outfit whose new album, Dream Seeds, has been gaining some good press on a handful of blogs I follow. Every time I’ve come across a post on the band’s music, I’ve tried it; hoping that it would finally start to resonate with me.
While I can’t say I’m really in love with the music Extra Life plays, it is eccentric and distinctive enough to share. While Extra Life’s music contains elements that will be familiar to you–folk, noise, musical theater, classical–the trio combines these ideas into a way that’s somewhat striking....full text
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