The Helio Sequence – Keep Your Eyes Ahead

The Helio Sequence
Keep Your Eyes Ahead

If you were enamored of The Helio Sequence’s early work, a surreal mixture of samples, sequenced keyboards and swirling, psychedelic guitar histrionics, then you may be disappointed with their new album, Keep Your Eyes Ahead. But if you’re a fan of radiant indie-rock, frothing with jangly and heavily reverbed guitars and refined vocals, you will probably fall in love with the Portland Oregon band’s latest release. The duo of Brandon Summers (vocals/guitar) and Benjamin Weikel (drums/keyboards) have traded in their elongated, fluttering and trippy jams for a kinder, gentler and dreamy, guitar-based indie-pop.

But thankfully they haven’t completely abandoned their early sound, as remnants of the bouncy atmospherics appear in more controlled and restrained, yet brilliant, short bursts within the context of charming and jangly indie-pop tunes. They even mix in some electro-style beats so their sense of adventure and pop experimentation also remain intact. The result is a rewarding album of well-crafted songs with hints of shoegazing drones and a folksy charm that places their sound somewhere between I Am Kloot and The Shins.

The sublimely smooth voice of Summers leaves an endearing impression on the listener and adds rich character to each song. He sings with a placid everyman’s voice, but does so with such insightful emotion that he conveys different moods perfectly, much like John Bramwell of I Am Kloot. His lyrics of twisted love and regret are the perfect compliment to the ornate backing instrumentation and the soft textural tapestries of slower numbers like opener “Lately”, “Back To This”, “Broken Afternoon” and the supremely sublime “Shed Your Love”.

But it’s the faster-paced tracks that make Keep Your Eyes Ahead a compelling album. “The Captive Mind”, “Can’t Say No”, “You Can Come To Me”, “Hallelujah” and the title track all shimmer brightly with waves of layered guitars in a whirlpool of reverbed echoes, snappy rhythms with vibrant interludes, including dreamy keyboards and shrewd electric guitar leads, trippy electronic beats and crashing drums, and are sung with delicately sweet vocals and lilting melodies.

The Helio Sequence seem to have settled down a bit as their songs are more concise and the music more focused. But Keep Your Eyes Ahead is certainly a rewarding venture as it contains enough amiable and alluring dream-pop, with ample atmospheric charm, to overlook it’s few weaknesses.

Recommended Tracks: “The Captive Mind”, “Can’t Say No”, “Keep Your Eyes Ahead”, “You Can Come To Me” and “Shed Your Love”.