A song is defined as: musical sounds in agreeable succession or arrangement.
Melody is the combination of pitch and rhythm.
The first time I put on Silo Halo‘s new album Night and the City (Etxe Records, DC) my immediate attraction was to the vocal melody lines and strong songwriting. This Washington, DC-based, self-described “emotive” band displays many strengths throughout the record but I keep finding myself humming the vocal parts for hours after each fresh listen. My only real concern is that at times I wish the vocals were even louder.
In many a rant, I have gone on and on that a big difference between “good” bands and “not good” bands is usually the strength of their singing and song writing (and of course some luck). You can walk into 74,000 different garages, basements, and bedrooms throughout the world and find plenty of great music. 90% of the time you won’t walk away fulfilled by the vocals. Maybe it’s bad P.A. systems or the extroverted nature and nakedness of singing that prevents all of those kids from choosing to become the “lead singer” vs. the drummer or guitar player.
Silo Halo is a band that uses their 3-person multi-instrumentalist /vocal attack like a well oiled pitching staff. Each member taking turns with their unique style and approach throughout the arrangements. The listener is treated to smart, uplifting lyrics and complex musical change up’s while the classic male-to-female vocal back and forth’s keeps the songs interesting and free-flowing. The verse’s in the song “Out of the Fugue” act as a dark minor chord and noisy detour on the path towards the light filled chorus of arpeggiated major notes and quick picking guitar riffs. Bass player and singer Christin Durham provides contemplative vocal relief from the moody segments of Chris Goett and Greg Svitil’s vocal mannerisms. Danceable beats and distorted synths mesmerize on “You Don’t Dream” and the dynamics of songs like “Wonderful Gift” and “I’m Still Slamming My Head Against a Brick Wall” remind you why great songs will always outshine super glossy production.
So I am now a few paragraphs into this review and I have yet to mention who Silo Halo actually sound like. I promised myself I would write this review without mentioning one other band or artist in reference to their sound. Plenty of bands and musicians dread the “what kind of music do you play” or “who do you sound like” inquiries. They don’t sound like Primus, does that suffice?* With Silo Halo I would like to say they play a type of music that could fit into a wide array of genres. Put them on a bill with a shoegaze band and they would fit right in. Put them on a bill with a psyche-synth-pop band and they would fit in. Put them on a bill with any indie or alt or post-punk band and they would fit in. Just don’t put them on a bill with The Allman Brothers.**
That’s not to say there isn’t some creative musicianship on this record. The dual-guitar interplay on “Which Wire Do I Choose?” does exactly what any great two-guitar song should do: sound like one guitar playing numerous parts. The song also contains one of the albums most impressive musical moments in the chorus. The hypnotic bass line and beat on “Stones Inside Her Chest” pulsates into your stomach at high volumes while swirling, delayed guitars fill up any and all empty space in the track. There are moments the music can get real heady but it never comes across as pretentious or inauthentic. You can hear musical influences from the past five decades all over the record but you can’t quite pin down exactly what they are and their sound is indeed a very modern blend of moody songwriting with just enough noise thrown in to keep them interesting to listen to repeated times.
The musical purist in me might wish there were more bridges in the songs and like most any record not produced in a super high-end recording studio there are moments when the clarity of notes get a little lost in the mix. But I am honestly not sure if that is how the band might have actually intended it to sound. Unpolished and slightly unhinged has always been a calling card of the DC post punk scene, anything too slick wouldn’t necessarily fit the aesthetic of Silo Halo.
We don’t usually review “local” bands here at Bums Logic (something we hope to change) and I must fully disclose that I know the members personally and used to play in another band with one of them. I was honored to be asked to write a review of the album and would not have agreed to take it on if I didn’t truly enjoy the music. Hopefully I can turn some people on to this album and in return shed more light on the DC rock scene that has been overlooked for far too long. There are dozens of really great bands in the DC area right now and Silo Halo are among the most interesting and crafty of them all.
- * Technically I am mentioning another band right here but it’s more so you can get an understanding of who they don’t sound like. So I am getting a pass on this.
- ** Ok I lied, I’m mentioning two bands they don’t sound like. You can say I broke my rule if you want. And as far as I know there is no beef between The Allman Brothers and Silo Halo.