"Say Something", the first single and third track off Between the Senses, is everything a pop song should be. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, it is awash with glittering hooks, believable vocals, and palatable lyrics you can sing with after a single listen. Furthermore, in these quietcore heydays, it is a pièce de résistance: for band and song alike, it's a bill of sale, a justification, and a ticket to ride into popular memory.
Let’s not jump to conclusions, however: Between the Senses is hardly a record of “Say Something"s; it sometimes seems as if the remainder of the album can’t carry the weight of such a terrific single. A number or two sound half-done and slightly juvenile (“Still Tonight”, a song with too myopic a melody and too repetitive of lyrics). There are songs that lumber and drag, overstepping the line between emotional grandeur and tiresome melancholia (“Holding On”, a song which this reviewer yawns through). And by the end, the album feels too long, with too many tunes trying and failing to make a unique impression.
But the fact that Haven have created “Say Something”—and more songs than not which maintain an honesty and inventiveness—makes the Cornwall quartet an important new contender, and Between the Senses a meaningful debut that answers the demand created by their 2001 EP, Til the End and single “Beautiful Thing” (also on Between the Senses). Overall, Between the Senses is an earnest attempt at greatness, holding a promise of something bigger and better.
“Beautiful Thing” offers a king-sized beginning to the album, mimicking the wild energy of a live number through its driving guitars and dramatic shifts in volume. “Beautiful things don’t die,” Gary Briggs sings, his voice wallowing in crisis; the cascade of guitar and bass noise around him resonates, and drummer Jack Mitchell lays heavily on high-hat and crash cymbal. And, like a live rendition, the track ends with the echo of a resolute guitar chord, pulsing for a few seconds before dying down into silence. But the chaotic splendor of “Beautiful Thing” is neither keyed up nor grounded in the airy mush of “Where Is the Love”, which follows. Briggs’ vocals lose their power in the height of his range, and the guitar, bass and drums are less gossamer than they are fluffy.
At its best moments, though, Between the Senses is simply and unnervingly beautiful. The clear magnificence of Briggs’ voice—powerful and gentle, effortless and genuine—renders nearly every melody it touches into a precious stone worth saving. (Proof positive: try listening to the last chorus of “Lately”—it is impossible not to shiver.) Add on the tenderness of the keyboards, guitars and bass by Nat Watson and Ivan Grognow, and it’s a package capable of delivering evocative ballads as well as triumphant songs at mid-tempo. And when they fulfill their capacity, it’s something to behold—as on the urgent, distressed “Out of Reach” or striking “Til the End”.
With Between the Senses, it’s obvious that the foursome have some way to go before their sound reaches maturity and their album comes off as free of filler. Though, while they lack the polish of Coldplay, Travis, or Starsailor, they certainly do not lack the talent; in some ways the band’s rough edges put them in the best possible position. With the right cultivation, Haven can create a tighter, more satisfying album—one on which they’ll truly “say something”.