Music

The Lone Bellow: Then Came the Morning

The Lone Bellow knows how to nail a crescendo. The problem with Then Came the Morning is that it makes it seem like the band is only good at that.


The Lone Bellow

Then Came the Morning

Label: Descendant
US Release Date: 2015-01-27
UK Release Date: 2015-02-09
Amazon
iTunes

The members of the Lone Bellow live in Brooklyn. On its own, this information is not particularly interesting. In 2015, this information is especially uninteresting, given that Brooklyn has firmly established itself as a veritable factory of bands, churning out groups classified under the increasingly large "indie" genre by the dozen on a weekly basis. The term "Brooklyn-based" has become an industry unto itself, and the Lone Bellow is indeed part of that industry. Unlike its neighbors, however, the Lone Bellow plays an earnest, stadium-ready brand of alt-Americana. This makes the band quite distinct from the indie trends at the moment, which are moving more toward the electronic realm. (Try counting the number of self-professed "synth-pop" groups in Brooklyn; you'll lose count fast.)

However, while the Lone Bellow may be a relative anomaly in its space in New York, the group does fit quite well within the trend of Americana-inspired bands that have risen to prominence starting with the end of the '00s. Groups like Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers, whose instrumentation evokes Americana while their songwriting evokes arena rock, have, unwittingly or not, spearheaded a supposed "Americana revival", one that has thus far appealed to much wider audiences than the similar folk revival at the beginning of the '00s. (The latter was famously encapsulated by the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers film O Brother, Where Art Thou?) Simply put, while Alison Krauss and Union Station are still a household name where bluegrass, folk, and Americana are concerned, they won't come close to selling out the venues that Mumford and their ilk do. Because of this context, the Lone Bellow could be poised for similar levels of stardom. In 2014, the trio, only now on its second album, co-headlined the massive Americana Festival in Nashville, and owned the stage with aplomb right alongside the already-huge Avett Brothers.

All it takes is one listen of the Lone Bellow's music to get a sense of why the band has made a connection so quickly. The trio, comprising Zach Williams (guitar/lead vocals), Kanene Donehey Pipkin (mandolin, vocals), and Brian Elmquist (guitar, vocals), has one songwriting technique nailed down: the crescendo. On the band's self-titled debut and now its sophomore outing, Then Came the Morning, they spend each song building up to a euphoric moment of catharsis, with the group's vocal harmonies in perfect unison, note for note. One could accuse the Lone Bellow of many things, but being insincere is not one of them. Listening to Then Came the Morning, it's easy to feel that the trio wrote this music just for you, and that you're the only person in the world that matters.

In this way, the trio can count Coldplay among its spiritual (but not sonic) kin. Though it's easy to lob jokes at those sappy Brits, it's hard to deny that they know exactly how to push emotional buttons. For every one person that rolls their eyes the second the opening organ notes of "Fix You" come out of a speaker, another 10 will be readying their hankies. The Lone Bellow arouses similar emotions, and on Then Came the Morning the band doesn't let up right from the beginning. With vocal arrangements ripped straight out of the Great Gospel Playbook, the trio kicks the doors off the hinges with the opening title track, establishing an intense emotionality that doesn't let up for the rest of the LP. Unfortunately, while one would be correct in admiring this group's emotional endurance, it's not long after "Then Came the Morning" that the law of diminishing returns begins to kick in fast.

Almost the entirety of Then Came the Morning mines this rise/fall theatric: soft verses suddenly give way to climactic choruses, where Williams, Donehey Pipkin, and Elmquist harmonize to beautiful perfection. To be sure, there's a reason why the band so clearly leans on this strategy: the members are exceptional at it. That being said, over the course of 13 tracks, this emotional rollercoaster tactic wears out pretty quickly.

Some tunes are successful in breaking through this monotony of extremity. "Heaven Don't Call Me Home" is a wildly fun blues jam chock full of tasty guitar licks. The tender "Telluride" gives the instruments a rest and lets the trio's vocals come front and center for a moment of relative calm amidst the emotional tumult -- it's enough to make you wish for an entirely a cappella number. Fortunately, these tunes come later into the album, thus allowing the flow of the music to not get even more burned out than it already has after the front half's crescendo worship. At the same time, it's also a case of not enough, too late, as it would have been more to the Lone Bellow's benefit to both cut down on the over-emoting and to spread it out more evenly throughout the record to allow for a more dynamic flow. As it stands, Then Came the Morning gets too overheated in its first half for the latter half to feel like a genuine comedown.

For any other band, it'd be easy to just chalk this up as a basic case of the sophomore slump. With the Lone Bellow, though, it feels especially more disappointing, given the raw talent that's been obvious since the trio's self-titled debut. All of the composite aspects that make this band so compelling are present on Then Came the Morning. Unfortunately, they're misallocated in pretty obvious ways. There's still plenty of reason to have hope for this "Brooklyn-based" group, but after this outing one has good reason to worry that, like the Brooklyn indie scene, the Lone Bellow might fall victim to the curse of homogeneity.

5

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

Ahead of Offa Rex's Newport Folk Festival set, Olivia Chaney talked about the collaboration with the Decemberists.

I was lucky enough to catch two of Offa Rex's performances this past summer, having been instantaneously won over by the lead single and title track from the record, The Queen of Hearts. The melodious harmonium intro on the track is so entrancing, I didn't want to miss their brief tour. The band had only scheduled a few dates due in part to other commitments and perhaps limited by their already busy schedules, the Decemberists are actively touring and had their own festival in the summer while and their friend, "sublime English vocalist" Olivia Chaney, had arrived from across the pond.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image