[22 May 2014]
Nightbox’s second EP is full of joyous, catchy synth-pop songs. “The Panic Sequence” may be the name of one of the record’s tracks but feels bizarrely misapplied as the title of the whole release. The band, based in Toronto but founded in Ireland, specializes in hooky melodies and equally hooky synth riffs. Singer Jacob Bitove has a strong, smooth voice perfect for pop songs and an equally smooth falsetto. At the other end, Jacob’s brother Nick’s slightly gritty drumming often keeps the band from sounding completely manufactured, although the EDM-style production on this release does its best to make the drums sound artificial.
Opening track and lead single “Burning” is an instantly likable singalong with a cute steel drum-style synth sound accompanying the melody. “The Panic Sequence”, with slightly less beefy production, could easily pass for a lost ‘80s synth-pop track with its disco-style guitars. “Wonderworlds” is a downtempo track with silly lyrics that’s fun enough musically to make the lyrics dismissable. Sadly, that isn’t the case with closer “Wash”, by far the most ambitious track musically on the record. An intricate acoustic guitar line drives the song, along with syncopated rhythms that give the track a world music feel. Lyrically, though, there are a couple of unforgivable couplets that absolutely sink the song. “I saw you on the corner / Chasing balloons, you couldn’t catch them” begs for a follow-up, but it sits there as a non-sequitur, making Jacob sound like he’s got his eye on an 8-year old girl for nefarious reasons. Then the refrain of the song leans hard on the line “We are particles on the ground / Turning into fine white powder”. Clearly the intention is to describe snow, but Nightbox should know better than to use the phrase “fine white powder” because it just sounds like you’re talking about cocaine. It’s a jarring phrase in this context and combined with the balloon line it makes the whole song sound as if the lyrics were poorly written by non-native English speakers. The Panic Sequence is good stuff, but “Wash” may leave listeners with a strange final impression.