Race for Titles – S/T

Let’s play a little guessing game, shall we? I give you a line from a song on this album, and you try to guess what the sound of the album is. Okay? Ready, set, go.
“I don’t want to feel like this anymore / These days have turned my life upside down”
No guesses? All right, try another one.
“Taking steps back / The seams begin to fall apart / And I can hardly stand the site of myself / What am I doing to myself?”
All right, just one more, but then you really have to guess.
“The light came on / You were sleeping / We held our breath / Kissed the air away / Goodbye / Good night / Goodbye / Good night”
What’s that? Did you use the dreaded “E” word? Well, you guessed it. If any album on my desk at the moment screams – or just whimpers – “EMO!” this one is it. Yeah, the word has come to mean virtually nothing, and it is useless in reviews, but there really is no other word to summarize this album. Somewhere between the lush and beautiful sounds of Brandston, and the prettily melodic aggression of Thursday is where Race for Titles resides. Comparisons have been made to the likes of emo forefathers Mineral, but let’s not give Race for Titles too much credit just yet.
But let’s not go dismissing the entire album just yet either. So yes, many of the lyrics are very mediocre, with a song or two consisting of little more than the same couple of lines sung over and over again, and many of the lines sounding as though they were plucked from the linear notes of a similar album written a few years ago. When the instrumental “Dimmer” comes along, you’ll be grateful for the break. And it’s a shame really, because the dreamy vocals are quite good. But fortunately, there is much more to this album than the lyrics. The dark and glowing ambient rock that builds the stage on which the aforementioned vocals are set is what ends up stealing the show. The layers of ethereal guitar work will have your head swirling, while the basslines show some real strength. The percussion is equally impressive, from the consistent yet inventive work on the drum kit to the layers of additional jingles and jangles. There is a sense of urgent intensity throughout the entire album, weaving its way into the gentler and more melodic parts as easily as with the crunchier and more aggressive ones. The truly stellar musicianship is shown off via instrumental portions thrown into many songs, making you want to forgive those occasions when the band lulls itself into an unremarkable groove that stretches the song out a bit too far. To top it all off, the entire thing is packaged beautifully by the production work of A.J. Mogis, who adds some atmospheric textures that bring out a real sense of depth to the music.
Omaha, Neb. seems to be a hotbed of musical attention these days, thanks in large part to the Saddle Creek gang. Featuring former members of bands like Red Menace, the Faint, and Commander Venus, Race for Titles is another interesting piece of this growing indie rock puzzle, though perhaps not the most inventive one. Armed with hooks stolen from their Sunny Day Real Estate and Pixies albums, the band has crafted a pleasant batch of dissonant rock blended with catchy pop that isn’t half bad for a debut full-length.