Tiara – Chained to the Crown

Chained to the Crown

Out of Ohio, the band Tiara has been making music for about a decade. The band has five albums to show for it, and its latest, Chained to the Crown, evinces their years of experience. It’s confident, sometimes clever, and cleanly produced, but it seems to be lacking something to engage me as a listener.

I can appreciate the songwriting, as well as the craft and craftiness, that went into this album; it’s quite professionally done. I would be willing to believe that Chained is the product of a singer/songwriter backed by studio players, such is the caliber of the musicianship. The instrumentation includes electric, acoustic, and slide/slide-sounding guitar in just the right amounts appropriate to the songs. For instance, on “The Next Face,” the bridge lets the gentle acoustic strumming and lilting slide carry the song nearly into a sleeping state before the drums and electric guitar wake the song back up into its finale. Credit goes to the drummer on this track as well, as his variations in dynamics count for a lot here. This was my favorite track; I think that my reasons for liking it have to do with its lack of vocals, its modulations in approach, and its slightly off-kilter structure. A few of the other tracks, such as “We Learned From the Best” and “No Better for It,” go from quiet to loud – passive to assertive – but not with the same impact.

These reasons point the way to my lack of engagement elsewhere on the CD. In other places, it sounds like the band goes through the motions almost without believing in the songs themselves. For instance, the vocals tend to be a little histrionic (to my ears). This dramatic sensibility leads to an air of inauthenticity, which may be coloring my impressions of the music as a whole. It’s as if maybe the band substitutes competence for real feeling. And it’s not that the singing is in any way bad or out of tune, just a little too affected. And the occasional guitar solos, as competently played as they are, don’t advance the music as much as they sap some of the energy from these tracks.

I’m afraid that this review is sounding worse than I mean it to be. Tiara’s music will probably appeal to fans of My Morning Jacket, Devendra Banhart, and singer/songwriters. I’m just afraid that perhaps its accomplishment doesn’t leave as much of an impression as that left by others working in the same field.