The Potomac Accord – In One-Hundred Years the Prize Will Be Forgotten

The Potomac Accord
In One-Hundred Years the Prize Will Be Forgotten

One of the pleasures of listening to indie music, as any such fan will tell you, is the joy of “discovering” a new band that perfectly fits the sound you’ve been looking for. This band is usually so obscure, few others have heard of them, let alone heard them. Yet, to you, the music is everything, the music is perfect. And that’s the exact feeling I had when listening to the first album by The Potomac Accord. Silver Line on a Black Sea, released in 2001, was a brilliant debut, filled with dark overtones, gorgeous pianos, and poetic lyrics. It was with great eagerness – and yet a little anxiety, for how can any band follow a perfect album? – that I waited for their follow-up, now on the label the band started with other like-minded musicians.
It’s impossible to be disappointed by an album as wonderful as In One-Hundred Years… The band’s style hasn’t changed greatly, which is comforting, because no band is doing what The Potomac Accord is doing. The obvious centerpiece of the band’s sound remains the piano, stark and lovely and flowing through each song that fluctuates from quiet and temperamental to loud and emphatic. The band still incorporates strings subtly but efficiently throughout the songs. The vocals – although at times breaking with emotion or perhaps just with the limitations of the singer – soar with the songs, belting out the band’s poetic verses and then dipping down to a near whisper. These six songs are all almost over six minutes, proving the band isn’t worried about fitting into any set song structures but rather defying such structures and taking these grandiose pieces where they need to go.
All that being said, it would be impossible for In One-Hundred Years… to have the same affect on me as Silver Line on a Black Sea did. Alas, it’s impossible to discover a band more than once. And for the most part, these songs sound as if they could have accompanied those on Silver Line. The formula hasn’t changed much, and production values haven’t greatly improved. In fact, on “Sunset on the Empire” and the tumultuous ending of “Newly Fallen Century,” the sheer intensity of the instrumentation causes the sound to break down, an effect that may even be intentional. This is not a criticism, by any means, because I think I’m plenty happy to find The Potomac Accord picking up right where they left off, in my heart as well as in their music.
The songs here are brilliantly structured, long and flowing, generally building to climaxes of vocals, piano, guitar, and drums. Perhaps my favorite song, “Sunset on the Empire,” is beautifully focused around the piano, which is stark and ominous. The band mixes other sounds – soft bass, guitar, more immediate drums, and feedback at the album’s beginning – to create the mood, but the piano and vocals remain the foundation as the song starts quiet and builds. By the climax, the shouted vocals, “Everyone’s afraid, and everyone is scared, that someday you will go to hell,” carry even greater power. “The Empty Road” maintains a more mid-tempo pace, but bass and guitar are featured here more prominently, and the lighter sound of strings and bells make a nice change of pace. The climax of “Ghost of Kalamazoo” marks another of the album’s shining moments, as the vocalist belts out, “So raise your fist up high / hold it to the sky / you know that we have found / a broadcast of heartache that hurts us now,” the piano crashing over guitar and drums like a wave. The 11-minute “Newly Fallen Century,” which closes the album, puts less focus on the piano but continues the band’s textured, layered style of instrumentation, relying on guitar and moody vocals more prominently.
It’s impossible to precisely label this band, as they rely more on vocals and rock instrumentation than bands in the Godspeed You Black Emperor collective, and while the complicated structures and instrumentation hint at a post-rock direction, the sheer beauty and intensity is practically emo. Comfortably branching whatever styles they choose, The Potomac Accord are a band all their own, and their songs are as lovely as they are emotionally powerful. All this creates a wonderful album and a suitable follow-up to their immaculate debut.