Taking a Listen

by Ryan Snyder

North Elementary—Southern Rescue TrailsFor North Elementary’s currently-nonexistent follow-up to their recent and multifarious release Southern Rescue Trails, you get the feeling that they could be one of those bands that lists brands their MySpace band page as Crunk / Ghettotech / Melodramatic Popular Song and not be completely and annoyingly ironic about it. In its entirety, Southern Rescue Trails is a little bit country, a little more rock and roll, and just a tad bit…electro? On their second full-length record in two years, North Elementary strikes a curious balance between synth-soaked power chords and winsome folk arrangements. Though they carefully avoid turning it into the bloated sound clash that you constantly anticipate, it’s an album that’s clearly meant to be consumed in one sitting, as the deft twists and turns throughout defy usual tracking conventions. At its core, it’s a more fleshed-out exposition of themes explored on their debut Not For Everyone, Just For You. If asked for one simple definition, “pop” might suffice, but lyrically, it’s often too abstract to fit even that giving mold. On opener “That’s All for Everyone” John Harrison sings, “I know you can feel how everything around us comes through for everyone,” revisiting the diaphany of their first release almost immediately.The one constant on the record is his languid, rigid voice. Rarely does his timbre break from it’s tortoise-like cadence, as layers of reverbed or fuzzed-out guitars and steel wash all around it. Some of the few exceptions come when keyboardist Betty Rupp on lifts him up with her expressive vocals on the straightforward Americana numbers “Midwest Bug” and “Sons of Turbo Town,” two of the few of their kind on the album. Given their success on these tracks, it makes the grizzled guitar blasts of “War for Kicks” and the transitive thump underneath “Sharp Ghost Mind” seem almost unnecessary. Overall, it’s still a fine album marked by dense layers of well-constructed sound, but like its predecessor, it’s still a little all over the place and lacking a cohesive identity.72/100North Elementary will perform at CFBG on Saturday, November 20.