The Pica Beats – Beating Back the Claws of the Cold

The Pica Beats
Beating Back the Claws of the Cold

The opening lines of “Poor Old Ra” sound like the cheerful introduction to a movie set in the Middle East. It’s these spacey, larger than life and atmospheric sounds that make up the majority of the sounds on The Pica Beats’ Beating Back the Claws of the Cold. But what these Beats attempt in ambition and otherworldliness, they lack in creativity and hooks.

Ryan Barrett is the chief songwriter for The Pica Beats and he writes all of the music, sings on all of the songs and plays a lot of the instruments. It’s his uncertain and sometimes, weak voice that only hinders the album’s general mood. A song like “Hope, Was Not a Family Tradition” is supported by ethereal backing vocals and eerie instrumentation but somewhere near the midway point, the music cuts out to reveal a meek-singing Barrett, before more of the same occurs. The album is truly mired by a case of the “sameness.” Although a lot of Barrett’s debut can be attributed to his love for the sitar and other Middle-Eastern sounds, he does little to stretch the sound’s spectrum. What you are left with are eleven songs that all sound relatively similar and that don’t posses enough catchy melodies to pair with their motivated creator.

“Territoire” sounds awkwardly out of place as Barrett sings in a rushed and hurried cadence as the music thumps and rustles around him. The bass is lost in the mix and the vocal’s chant-like style make for a sloppy closing to the album. Some of the songs like “Summer Cutting Kale” start off distinctive from its predecessor or follower but they then follow with the same failing techniques. Usually it’s a waddling shtick like the discomfited vocals, a redundant musical phrase or the overuse of dubbing and atmospherics.

An instrumental song like “Martine, As Heavy Lifter” is lost in the album’s overall scope and the fact that it’s drawn out for almost four minutes of the same monotonous melody doesn’t help. That isn’t to say the all of the album falls on deaf ears as is evident with the great music featured on “Hikikomori and the Rental Sisters.” The latter song is everything Beating Back the Claws of the Cold should have been — it’s gripping and musical, it’s unique and captivating and most of all, it’s exceptional. Barrett combines his best strengths to deliver one of the album’s few shining spots; it’s just a shame there aren’t more of them on here.