Umpire – Now We’re Active

Umpire – Now We’re Active

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The guys of Umpire are obviously working with a motif: the lyrics, musicality, even the album cover — featuring a wide blue sky and open field — of Now We’re Active all are driven by a sense of expansiveness. The group uses echoistic qualities, minimal but well-placed drums and pointed song titles (“The Canyon” is a literal example) to convey a sense of the natural, the wide and serene. Each track sounds polished and extremely well crafted yet incredibly sincere, primarily due to the soaring, evocative quality of the vocals.

Now We’re Active has an astounding sense of progression. Somewhat repetitively employing the use of loud-soft-loud dynamics (think Death Cab for Cutie), the musical and songwriting talents of these guys produces some real standout tracks. “Supply Chins” demonstrates the importance of sonic qualities in the lyrics as well as the instrumentals: they make fantastic use of rhyme, assonance and euphony (“While I’m chasin’ this oasis/ through this face off and the stasis/ I can feel your lonely heart glow/ in the solace that surrounds us”). This track also features notable horn and clarinet parts that both give it strength and set it apart from the others on the album.

The real highlight on Now We’re Active is actually one of the more subdued, softer tracks. Directly following the aggressive “Jewellery Can Be Disturbing,” “On The Fringes” is the perfect contrast (a testament of the ability of Umpire to effectively structure an album). Opening with a simple, gorgeous instrumental melody, the whole feel of the track is a bit different from its counterparts. Gentle and contemplative, “On The Fringes” combines all of its elements in such a way that no one part dominates or overwhelms the others. Umpire still utilizes the soft-loud-soft structure here, but, in keeping with the feel of the track, the louds aren’t quite as loud, and feature some brilliant subtleties.

Were every track on Now We’re Active to be as perfectly balanced as “On The Fringes,” the album would be much more of a standout. As it is, the LP is still an extremely strong debut but sometimes struggles with a lack of variety in its song structures. Within the expansive feel of Umpire’s music, that just means they have room to grow.

 


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