Music

The Submarines: Declare a New State

You could think of The Submarines as the diametric opposite of Jens Lekman. The former -- together, turning even lost love into happiness; the latter -- alone, managing to turn a sweet summer's night into a dense bed of sorrows.


The Submarines

Declare a New State

Label: Nettwerk
US Release Date: 2006-06-20
UK Release Date: Available as import
iTunes affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Husband-and-wife team Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti are The Submarines. John Dragonetti in the past was Jack Drag, a minor '90s indie songwriter; Blake Hazard is the great-granddaughter of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Declare a New State is the album they wrote for/about their breakup in 2004 and subsequent renewed relationship (hence, husband-and-wife team). Well, if this album truly has sprung from the couple's platonic conception of themselves, it's a remarkably optimistic, if formulaic one: these songs can't help themselves but bubble over with the happiness of love, renewed.

Ah, husband and wife teams. Richard and Linda Thompson. Mates of State. (The White Stripes?) Like off-screen couples who find it difficult to capture the spark of their relationship on film, on disc hearing a man and a woman declaring their love for each other can be nauseating. Worse, hearing both voices on one song (when they are each taking the spotlight at different times) can bring on memories of unconscionable schmaltz and soft-focus '80s videos.

The good news is, The Submarines manage to sidestep most of that distasteful kitsch (partly by writing an album centered around the experience of breaking up). Bad news is, the man-woman-man alteration that makes up some of the album feels a little forced. When Hazard and Dragonetti sing together, as on the first single "Peace and Hate", the combination feels much more comfortable than this alternation of singers. The songs are sufficiently different from each other that you could almost gather Hazard's songs together and call them a different album. On the whole, her songs are in fact more appealing than Dragonetti's, with touches of country and occasional great lyrical insight. There's one pearler on "Brighter Discontent". Hazard asks, "Is a brighter discontent the best that I can hope to find?", just throwing off the line with hardly a melody, as she describes the loneliness of a new apartment, unpacked boxes, no boyfriend.

But just listen to the music sans-lyrics, even on "Brighter Discontent", and you could easily mistake this for an in-love, not out-of-love, song. In fact, this is the album's greatest downfall: for an album about a breakup, it's just too upbeat. Even "Clouds", all resignation and loneliness if you listen to the lyrics, is written from the certainty that things work out in the end -- because for these two, they did. Sometimes listening to this album, you want to shout at these two lovebirds, You don't understand! You didn't really suffer!

Oh well. We can't begrudge those in love their happiness. It swirls around these songs like an addictive drug, infecting major melodies and the treble-heavy mix. "Peace and Hate" has the melodic simplicity of a Blink 182 melody, the repetition of, say, "All the Small Things", but in an arching line states the whole album's philosophy: "breaking down cannot be cured by breaking up".

As with many good pop groups with indie sensibility, electronic sounds peek in at the sides of songs -- here, like a less adventurous/inventive New Buffalo. On Declare a New State, these small-scale creativities are consistently overwhelmed by pop sensibility. When the computer-interrupted stutters "we are scientists who will not be afraid" on "Vote", it's startling and effective. The album would benefit from more sonic experimentation like this.

The summer pop MOA here brings its own familiarities. "The Good Night" has the straightforward melody of Bright Eyes -- you know, the way his melodies are so predictable, but invite you in nonetheless. "Hope" is reminiscent of a summery Flaming Lips tune, or the slower moments from The Vines. But just listening to the album, these associations mostly float past fleetingly, carried away by the songs' prettiness and their confident happiness.

You could think of The Submarines as the diametric opposite of Jens Lekman. The former -- together, turning even lost love into happiness; the latter -- alone, managing to turn a sweet summer's night into a dense bed of sorrows. So when on "Ready or Not", the chorus tells us that love survives both peace and hate, take it as characteristic: whether or not this undermines the whole point of a breakup song, that's up to you.

6

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

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 week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5

Multi-tasking on your smart phone consumes too many resources, including memory, and can cause the system to "choke". Imagine what it does to your brain.

In the simplest of terms, Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen's The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World is a book about technology and the distractions that often accompany it. This may not sound like anything earth shattering. A lot of people have written about this subject. Still, this book feels a little different. It's a unique combination of research, data, and observation. Equally important, it doesn't just talk about the problem—it suggests solutions.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image