The Potomac Accord – Silver Line on a Black Sea

The Potomac Accord
Silver Line on a Black Sea

Sometimes you can express yourself all the better without pummeling your listener over the head with heavy-handed lyrics, impassioned vocals, and an outright assault of music. In truth, it’s often the more subtle approach that creates a more powerful and lasting impression. The Potomac Accord, a three-piece band from St. Louis, appreciates the more minimal approach, although they know when to take things up a few notches, and then their power and intensity is all the more shocking.
If I told you this band doesn’t use guitar much if it all, would you consider them pretentious or artsy? Listen to this album, and you won’t miss it, I promise you. Piano, drums, bass, and vocals are all The Potomac Accord needs to create an album of such brilliance, I’m hard pressed to think of suitable comparisons. And each listen gets better.
With a penchant for building songs over six or more minutes from quiet subtlety to crashing intensity, The Potomac Accord show both a contemplative and intense aesthetic. Their songs, focused around piano instead of guitar, are moody, slightly angry, slightly wistful or desperate affairs, falling somewhere between the glorious sounds of a band like Godspeed You Black Emperor! and the swirling emo intensity of Christie Front Drive yet not really resembling either.
All of the songs here are long and flowing, wrapped around lush piano and generally starting quiet and building by the end. The album starts on a very quiet, slightly eerie note on “Are They Careless Those Who Leave,” with repetitive piano lines, light drumming and hints of saxophone, the vocals melodic and mixed in with the music, but by the 7-minute mark, it increases in intensity, with beautiful piano and a more urgent feel. Guitar is used on my favorite track, “To Portland, Maine,” which is one of the more intense songs here. Vocals are more prominent, and the band even screams at a few points, shocking against the bare minimalism of their normal sound and all the more emphatic. Things get quieter and more focused on piano on “Mail from the Queen of the West Lawrence Social Alliance” and the starkly beautiful “Maya,” which probably features the best piano on the album and even what sounds like xylophone used quite well. There’s a bit too much silence to start off “All Eyes On Me,” which really doesn’t get going till about the 5-minute mark, although it builds so slowly that by the time it’s blaring away with crazy guitar (almost a spacey feel to it), piano, and drums and bass, you’re almost floored. Then “Of Plagiarism and Flattery” takes a different approach, starting with some layering effects and chimey piano and a slow-core feel. This one has a gorgeous flow, not really building like the other songs, but again the vocals reach a scream-like intensity, sort of in the background, which is a very cool effect.
I have listened to this album first every day for several weeks. It’s quiet enough to work my way into the day but has enough mood and intensity to stay away from being background music. It’s minimalistic at times, intense at others, and sometimes just beautiful. The Potomac Accord has crafted a nearly perfect album that I will be listening to for quite some time. And it’s only their debut.