Republic of Letters – Painted Hour
A few years ago, Republic of Letters impressed me with a nice debut EP called “Spirt or a Ghost”. It only contained a few rounded, well-written indie pop/rock songs, slightly reminiscent of bands like Feeder, Switchfoot, Snow Patrol, Idlewild and the likes and I could already hear enormous potential in this young band back then.
They now return with their official debut album, “Painted Hour”, which is pretty much as perfect as a debut album can be. All the songs have an emotional connection, lyrical and musical depth, passionate performance and the album fits together like one big package.
The band has a strong live reputation in the San Diego area. They bring a high level of musicality and sophistication and mix it with emotion, energy and enthusiasm. It’s a combination you’d like to see in every single band. But there are only so many bands who can really pull off this kind of quality. Republic of Letters in one of those few bands.
The opener, Lost Chord, is an uptempo pop/rock song that would make a killer radio single. The chorus is easy to remember and easy to sing along to. There is a lyrical depth that makes you interpret the song whatever way you please so it is a song that many people can connect to. The music has the right intensity and it’s one of those tracks that might just speak to you if you are willing to listen.
Stories is a more anthemic track, with highly intense vocals. There also is a certain rawness to this song which makes it an excellent live song as well. If you listen really well, you might hear something reminiscent of old school U2 even. It has the same atmosphere and epic feel to it.
Entre Chien Et Loup
Uptempo again with Entre Chien... It’s a song that grows on you more and more everytime you hear it. It has a recognizable, yet quite alternative edge. The exact right mix of pop, rock and ‘indie’ that will speak to the fans of the respective genres. The tempo, combined with the passionate performance of the song makes this song a dark horse when it comes to possible radio success.
Long Way Down
Long Way Down is one of the album’s best songs. Great guitar work and vocally close to perfect. People will tend to disagree with this statement, but it’s the little trembles and breaks that make it perfect to me. It just adds so much emotion. And a lot of the song’s strength lies in the timing. It is spot on all through the song. From the sing along chorus to the intense bridge, this song just has it all.
On Running From, Republic of Letters eases a little on the intensity. The keys are a nice feature in this song as they provide good support for the vocals. Lyrically it probably is one of the strongest tracks on the album, and it’s another song that no one will have trouble connecting to. The way the verses lead up to the recognizable chorus, make this song yet another one to be proud of.
This song needed a little time to convince me. From the grungy intro Karma leads into an alternative indie track that makes an amazing live song. While the chorus is actually quite catchy and the high intensity and uptempo characteristics of the song will make it stick, it is not really an obvious choice to release to radio. Its alternative edge and grungy feel are quite specific for radio airplay.
The title track is my absolute favorite on this record. It has a steady beat and melodically it is simply wonderful. The lyrics speak to me and musically it just reaches me. “and I’m just a shadow amongst the few on this one way road”. That’s just sheer brilliance. Everytime I hear this song I am deeply impressed.
Sounds of Fury
I just love the drums in Sounds of Fury. And also the way Venti sings “the sounds, the sounds, the sounds .. of fury now”. There’s a certain tension, a certain excitement in this song. It makes for an incredible build up and a powerful performance of an excellent indie song. I can imagine this to be an excellent live song also.
Endless Drive might be slightly more pop-oriented, yet it still has that distinct alternative edge (or indie feel if you will). It’s quite round in its melody and the more often I hear it, the more I can see this as a radio hit. It reminds me of other things I hear on the radio, perhaps only better.
If there is one track on this album that I connect to a little bit less it probably is Runaway. But the rhythm (I love the drums) and the excellent vocals and energy, make me wonder about the live version of this song. There’s a bit of mystery within this song that is masterfully contained so you only get a peek of it and remain interested in the song.
This song is the one that I have the biggest emotional connection to. The first time I heard this one I actually shed a couple tears. It reminded me of certain times, places and events in my life. Things I hold dear but things that caused hurt as well. In a way it connects these things for me and the passionate, powerful yet subtle performance of this song completely speaks to me. And everytime I find a band that writes a song like this, a song I can connect to so much, I know that this is a band that I will be a fan of for the rest of my life.
This review might be a little colored because I am very taken by this band’s music. But I would say that it is just that what makes music special. The personal connections and emotions that you feel with music. The memories, the feelings, the way it makes you look at things. It’s that personal bond you forge with certain music that makes it special to you. With “Painted Hour” I have made that rare connection that you can only make with a limited amount of albums. And this is why I feel this album is one that should be heard. Because I hope that others will find the same understanding and comfort in it that I do.
On top of that, the album is very sound musically, and for a debut album it is highly impressive. Excellent debut!