The Floating City – Entering a Contest

The Floating City
Entering a Contest

I can’t say precisely why it was so difficult to review Entering a Contest, but now, even more than six months past its release date, I know I have to give some (digital) ink to this impressive St. Louis band whose style is unique enough to give this critic some descriptive pains. Then again, when a band is original enough to defy easy pigeonholing, the open-minded reader should expect exciting things.

There’s a lushness to the instrumentation and production qualities on Entering a Contest that brings to mind bands like The Potomac Accord and The Jim Yoshii Pile-Up, but there’s also a vintage alternative quality due to Gareth Schumacher’s rich voice and the Rhodes piano used throughout that, somehow, evokes images of Morrissey. Not that The Floating City really sounds like any of those bands, instead taking a kind of subtle indie-pop vibe, riding those dulcet Rhodes tones and Schumacher’s subdued voice.

The album opens with “Kansas City,” and the meaning behind Schumacher’s opening lines, “My scarred chest has been coal-caressed / I went into the wilderness,” could almost be lost behind his subdued delivery. The song rides a gentle vibe until wild, almost psychedelic guitars kick in urgently for 30 or so seconds mid-song. The band then flows, mixing influences in its songs, such as on the rhythm-led “Memories Fade,” which reminds me of Aloha’s unique instrumentation in the prominence of the Rhodes, and the dreamy, almost Mercury Rev-esque “Whose Side are You On?”

Schumacher’s voice takes a more prominent role on “Instructions for the End,” which really demands you turn the volume up to appreciate the subtle strings and bass. The effects create a spacey quality on “Oh, Laughing Girl Upon the Brinke of Death!”, and “Smooth Cobra Future” puts more emphasis on the guitar for one of the most rocking tracks. That track marks a change on the album, with the more progressive and post-rockish “Where You Are” and the more moody, introspective “On My Guard” and “Awake” leading into the album’s end.

Nice stuff here. The album would benefit from someone with the production qualities of a Dave Friedmann to really give the band the weight and depth it deserves and bring out more of Schumacher’s voice, but the combination of stellar rhythm, Rhodes, and guitar is surprisingly precise and innovative. Keep an eye out for a great sophomore album from this band.