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"Crystal Sounds"

Thirteen Senses – Crystal Sounds
14 February 2011, 09:00 Written by Matt Conner
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The first signs of the former life are heard on ‘Home,’ three songs into Thirteen Senses latest album, Crystal Sounds. Over their first two albums, the Brit-pop four-piece became immediately attached to the emotion and epic sweeps of Coldplay, a move that served the band well through several minor hits and television placements.

However, the high point for the band came six years ago now, and their romantic contemporaries have mostly moved to more inventive pastures. Four years after their follow-up, Contact, questions remain concerning Thirteen Senses sonic direction. The answer immediately reveals itself on the six-minute opener and title track, where an arresting confidence is apparent from the outset. ‘Crystal Sounds’ takes its time to spread its arena-sized wings, and the song feels fresh despite the familiar individual elements. If anything, it seems Ben Gibbard moved across the pond.

Lead single ‘The Loneliest Star’ takes its cue from both the dance floor and a modern post-punk leaning to create an aggressive and interesting return. Will South’s always-on vocal sounds strong and his falsetto often becomes the hero on these songs. For longtime fans hoping for a return to The Invitation, the band’s 2004 debut, good news is found on ‘Home’ and ‘Suddenly,’ although the band never strays too far from shore.

‘Animals’ resonates the most of any track, a near seven-minute movement that moves from a sparse laptop-oriented track into a full string section. From here, the album lingers to the point of languishing, losing the energy it built on the first half. The introduction of an acoustic guitar as the focal point helps near album’s end (‘Send Myself to Sleep,’ ‘Concept’) but some editing is needed here.

‘In the Crowding’ provides a noble attempt to close the proceedings, but alas it’s a weak exit when taken in context. Yet the strong first half displays a band charging on into new territory much like their peers. It’s hardly exploratory or experimental, but the confidence that emerges on Crystal Sounds bodes well for Thirteen Senses into the new decade.

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