Another Coldplay? No. Much, much more.
Thirteen Senses have been creating excited ripples in the pool that is the contemporary music scene since they were pushed in at the deep end as two-thousand-and-three drew to a close. After receiving little besides massive acclaim for their stream of single releases over the course of this year, the debut album has become hotly anticipated. ‘The Invitation’ is a showcase of Thirteen Senses’ shimmering brilliance and musical sensibilities, featuring the anthemic ‘Do No Wrong’, a song that one can imagine achieving legendary status; the reflective ‘The Salt Wound Routine’ and all manner of songs in between. Thirteen Senses successfully incorporate strings and long instrumental sections (hear ‘Saving’) into their songs without sounding amateur or overly pretentious, something not often achieved on a debut album, especially from an indie band.
Thirteen Senses are often compared to Coldplay, and the similarity is apparent from the word go. Not only is the instrumentation similar, but Will South’s vocals soar in a way reminiscent of Chris Martin. They reach heights unattainable by us mere mortals, and remain beautifully in context with whatever the rest of the band are concocting at the moment of take off. This makes singing along to Thirteen Senses a little difficult at times; this isn’t a drunken karaoke record.
The album kicks of with the third single ‘Into The Fire’, possibly the happiest song on the album. The standard piano intro breaking into the full band style is introduced here and is clearly evident throughout the rest of the CD. The mass of sounds compliment one other perfectly with counter-melodic guitar on top of the ever-present piano chords and South’s uplifting vocal sound. This is a perfect opener; capturing the attention and interest of fans and non-fans alike. ‘Thru The Glass’ turns the mood around and takes a darker turn with a menacing intro that bursts into a angry-yet-polite guitar part. The lyrics offer an aggressive challenge, but are delivered in such a manner that they appear much lighter than perhaps they are. ‘Gone’ gently flows around the listener, strummed acoustic guitar, slow and simple percussion. The full register of South’s voice is explored here and to beautiful effect.
‘Do No Wrong’ combines the sensible piano sounds with a devastating chorus while retaining the beauty of the previous track. If I had to choose a favourite Thirteen Senses track it would be difficult to choose either ‘Do No Wrong’ or ‘Into The Fire’ over one another. Apparently backwards sounds are employed here adding a depth to Thirteen Senses not often found on a debut album. ‘The Salt Wound Routine’ is yet another example of the piano intro developing into the song. Except the song never really develops in the way experienced earlier on the album, instead the strings appear and everything that was poured into happiness or anger earlier is now siphoned off into beauty.
After the album opening with such diversity within a single apparently narrow genre, I found myself wondering where Thirteen Senses would send me next. Unfortunately, I found myself sent back where I came from, so to speak. Although the songs are all very good, the first half of the CD definitely outranks the second. The more dreany and typically piano-indie tracks become increasingly common. ‘Saving’, while no doubt an excellent song, is one of these. As is ‘Lead Us’. I implore you not to skip through the songs to find one to interest you, all the tracks deserve a listen. ‘Saving’ features mammoth instrumentals in which the band can really showcase their capabilities and the majority of these songs wind up to some kind of climax with piano weaving fantastically among guitar, both weaving fantastically among more guitar as well as riding upon the bass and percussion. If you appreciate a good instrumental, Thirteen Senses will do it for you.
‘Lost Forever’ dreamily exists above rolling percussion offered by Brendon James, and is a song that, in my opinion exists as a piece of music rather than a song. The lyrics are almost irrelevant; any melody instrument playing the vocal line would suffice. ‘History’ slows right down and returns priority to South’s voice. A lack of percussion gives and elusive sense of pulse as the song slowly builds up. The climax never really comes, instead it’s all suddenly gone again. Touches like this help keep Thirteen Senses sound fresh rather than clichéd. ‘Undivided’ is a reflective song that works on the old reliable formula of a piano and voice beginning breaking into the rest of the band to carry the song through to its quiet ending. Okay, the formula may be getting a little old by now, but it works for Thirteen Senses, and they manage to provide enough variety to pull it off without sounding stilted and unimaginative.
The two longest, mellowest tracks are left at the end of the album and manage, if listened to in full, to lower the pulse rate to such a level that a doctor could declare the listener clinically dead. I wouldn’t accuse them of being boring, not in so many words, but I stand my opinion on the first half of the album outplaying the second half.