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Color War

It Could Only Be This Way

(Color War; US: 4 Mar 2014; UK: 4 Mar 2014)

Color War’s debut album is full of mid-tempo, dreamy synth-pop tracks broken up by occasional ambient synth instrumentals. Singer Lindsay Mound’s smooth, slightly vibrato vocals are well-suited to this kind of material. That makes it a shame that Mound and synth specialist Billy J aren’t better songwriters, because It Could Only Be This Way is a boring slog of a record. This is one of those albums that essentially becomes instant background music, because there’s almost nothing interesting going on here. The opening pair of tracks, “Plate Tectonics” and “Hallways”, sets the tone for the rest of the album. The songs are five and a half and six minutes long, respectively, but seem to go on for far longer because they lack any sort of compelling melody, vocal hook or distinctive musical figure. Sure, it’s competent, but it isn’t interesting or fun. The almost uptempo song “SOS” is an exception, with distinctively ‘80s John Carpenter-aping synths that make it sound like a lost theme song to They Live or Big Trouble in Little China. Beyond that, though, the only tracks here that stand out are Billy J’s four ambient instrumentals. These short, chilly mood pieces are full of compelling soundscapes that gradually shift over their one to three minute running times and hint that J might be better off working on his own in that genre. Because the dreamy synth-pop route is really not going very well so far for Color War.

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