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Mode to Joy

(Rely; US: 16 Jan 2007; UK: Available as import)

This is the music of people with ideas and ideals, music created by fans of music unwilling to confine themselves to a single style or audience, songs with the common goal of inspiration and revelation.  It’s the type of album that makes you want to stop what you’re doing, pick up that instrument you stopped playing in middle school, and join a band.  Whether singing about weighty topics or vague nothings, there’s a joy in Glint’s performance that puts most of the bands on modern rock radio to shame.

Appropriately enough, the band’s debut full length is called Mode to Joy, and at 14 tracks and over 70 minutes, it’s a beast.  Even so, it’s the kind of album that’s inoffensive enough to have playing in the background while you’re doing other things, like checking expense reports or ironing shirts, background noise for the quiet, menial tasks of an everyday existence, while the few moments in which attention shifts to the music inevitably lead to a head-nod, the humming of a somehow familiar melody, or even just a knowing smile.

The interesting thing about Mode to Joy is that Glint doesn’t achieve this sort of universal appeal with music that could accurately be classified as “happy”—on the contrary, much of it is pretty somber, while some even borders on sinister.  There’s a song smack dab in the middle of the album called “Selfless Convulsion” which is just as dramatic and spastic as you’d think, though quite well put together and smoothly produced.  The song builds off a huge descending motif from a brass ensemble over insistent electric guitars and drums that careen wildly between 3-3-2 patterns and straight-up 4-4s.  Lead vocalist Jase Blankfort wails like a perturbed cross between Raine Maida and Chris Martin, pushing the song forward even as it threatens to fall apart all around him.  And yet, for all the drama, there’s a panache to the performance that tells its listeners “you’re in good hands; listen and be satisfied.”  And we are.

The primary strength and weakness of Glint is its universality.  This is a band obviously not afraid to go against the conventions that their nice-rock roots stick them to. A mere three songs into the album, we are met with the wonderfully catchy and earnest “Kro”, an oblique ode to the homophonically titular bird that lasts a solid seven-and-a-half minutes.  Much of it sounds as safe as a middle-of-the-road Foo Fighters track, but the fact that it lasts as long as it does is consistently surprising, as it never acts like an epic, and the extended instrumental section in the middle never sounds as though it’s trying to be more than a bridge.  It’s merely a pop song in an epic’s body, an extended radio track housed in the shell of a deep cut.

A scant three tracks later, the band drops the guitars and puts together a slightly less alienated version of a Radiohead synth cut, all ghostly, whistle-ly noises on top of insistent, squelchy synth pads, and yet, the melodies and Blankfort’s vocals still draw the humanity out of it.  The song is called “One of a Kind,” and while it’s far from that, exactly (“Umbrella” busts out the synths one more time in a decidedly subtler way), it is a decent one-track departure into synth-rock.

The problem with all this, then, is that despite the variety that is quite clearly presenting itself, there is a pervasive sense of the ordinary that seeps through much of Mode to Joy.  It’s as if even amongst all of this variety and strong songwriting, Glint’s members want us to know they’re just like us.  Honestly, it works in an intimate, coffee shop sort of way, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that this is a band destined for something bigger, that while the humble, nice-guy act is a bit refreshing in an industry dominated by ego, Glint would truly soar if they removed the shackles of their own making and just careened in every direction with no eye on a common sound.  It would be the same four people creating all of the songs; the common sound would come.  On the way to that sound could be something truly epic and world-shaking.

For now, we have the joy and the love, and there’s plenty to be said for those things.  There’s no reason Glint couldn’t be the next indie-band-made-good; go ahead, grab a copy of Mode to Joy, and nudge them in that direction.


Mike Schiller is a software engineer in Buffalo, NY who enjoys filling the free time he finds with media of any sort -- music, movies, and lately, video games. Stepping into the role of PopMatters Multimedia editor in 2006 after having written music and game reviews for two years previous, he has renewed his passion for gaming to levels not seen since his fondly-remembered college days of ethernet-enabled dorm rooms and all-night Goldeneye marathons. His three children unconditionally approve of their father's most recent set of obsessions.

Tagged as: glint | jambient | mode to joy | rely | rock
Glint - "One of a Kind"

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