I like the notion of soft rock mingling with electronica and art rock; if done right, such a combination can birth some very interesting, very beautiful offspring. Bands such as Grandaddy, Mercury Rev, The Polyphonic Spree, and Flaming Lips are shining example of the possibilities of such a sonic union. Absinthe Blind are a band who may not have the name recognition of those other bands, but that's doesn't mean that they're a lesser band because of that. They've been around for a few years, and their new album, Rings, is the beautiful sound of a band blossoming into greatness.
You'll quickly notice that there's a common theme between 3/4ths of the band; yes, Abisinthe Blind are practically a family group, the brothers and sister Fein. It should be no surprise, then, that these three harmonize quite grandly. I'm going to dive into utter hyperbole, without remorse, and without ANY regret, and say that Absinthe Blind is, in fact, the only band that's really, truly inherited the Free Design torch. Unlike bands like Stereolab and other hip groups that reference them, Absinthe Blind, through their familial link, have pulled the sword out of the soft-rock and have created a wonderful, beautiful album.
Rings starts off with the haunting, beautiful "The Break (It's Been There All This Time)," which starts off with a slow, electronic hum that breaks into a beautifully-sung number. What's most telling, though, is that it seems like the song is a number about their newfound beauty: "The melody's inside of me/It's been there all this time." In fact, many of the songs on Rings seem to deal with the subject of change, of self-realization, and of inner discovery. Were Absinthe Blind aware of the enormous change ahead, from their transformation from dream-popped shoegazers to a band that can easily stand with bands such as Flaming Lips, Polyphonic Spree, or Mercury Rev? I'm not a fan of interpreting the meanings behind other people's writings, but I can't help thinking that their music is inspired by these changes.
It also doesn't hurt Absinthe Blind that they've enlisted two experts of sonic design to record Rings. Keith Cleversley (responsible for records by Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips, and Spiritualized) is a man who knows a fair share about making beautiful, blissed-out, trippy music. Matt Talbot (Hum/Centaur) has an ear for the loudness of quiet and the tranquility of noise. Together, they've combined forces, and as a result have produced one of the best recorded albums I've heard this year. Even if the music on Rings wasn't beautiful, you would still want to shake Cleversley and Talbot's hands for their production efforts! Thankfully, Cleversley and Talbot's production never wastes one note, and Absinthe Blind have really realized the potential of their music.
Regardless of whether or not their songs reflect their change, Absinthe Blind have quickly blossomed into one of today's best bands, period. The Fein's shared harmony is simply angelic; when Erin Fein sings, she unleashes beauty upon the world. Placed over the hum and the drone and the beat and the noise and the beauty of their music, Absinthe Blind have really reached a high point that many bands fail to reach.
I'm enchanted by their music, charmed by their harmonies, and tearfully thankful that they made Rings. I wouldn't really be surprised to find this one on many best-of lists, including my own.