Dept. of Energy – Faster

Dept. of Energy - Faster

Dept. of Energy - Faster

Hailing from Seattle, Washington, the music capital of the Pacific Northwest, this three piece of Robb Benson, Ty Bailie and Cassady Laton brings us the follow-up to their successful debut full length, Held By Waits.  Their latest effort shows off a tight group fully rooted in the indie pop rock sound.

Seeing as how I’m not a big Perry Ferrell fan, upon first listen to Faster I picked out certain leanings towards the music of Jane’s Addiction that I wasn’t terribly excited about.  Luckily I never pin my feelings on the first listen.  Upon subsequent spins I found that I enjoyed it more and more and my Ferrell fears became something of the past.  Instead I picked up elements more closely related to one of my own favorite bands and fellow Seattleits, The Long Winters along with hints of Harvey Danger, The New Pornographers, Blink 182, Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Shins.  Dept. of Energy manages to mash up its influences, add its own personality and really own each song on the album.

The vocals in “Empty Enemies” are a bit whiny for my taste and sound a bit forced.  However halfway through the track, there are a couple of lines that are tinged with a country twang and the electric guitar bends it— and I can’t help but want it back when it disappears almost as quickly as it appared.  It does come back brielfy towards the end and is complimented by organ-style keys in chords very reminiscent of  The Long Winters.  This alt country exploration was a good sound for the group and the only thing that held any promise in this song for me.  

One of my favorites, “Josephine” starts out with organ keys, sounding fun and dancy with high energy vocals and melodic yelling similar to that of Sean Nelson.  The upbeat nature, bouncy keys and harmonies along with the electric guitar solo sound like it could be straight out of a TLW song. And yet it has a background tinge of anger about this girlfriend giving the song a multi-layered edge that seems to be lacking on other tracks.  On “The Shift” Benson’s vocals have a full-out instrumental backing including layers of cello amongst the strong drum thrashing and Bailie’s signature keyboard stylings.  Despite the musical additions, the song didn’t capture my full attention. 

“Mind Over Matter” starts out with simple Smoosh-like keyboards and has whiny vocals and harmonies reminiscent of Blink 182.  But the keyboards transition into an organ mixed with crashing cymbals and twanging guitar for one of my favorite sound combinations on the album, and this blends well with the voice that I found to be too whiny in other places.   

Benson’s vocals do eliminate the possibility for monotony through his wide range of styles and influences.  With the rich instrumental talent from within the band or guests with intstruments like a banjo or a cello, each song portrays a different sense of emotion and energy that matches perfectly with the vocals.  Something that does makes Dept. of Energy stand out is that from song to song the group manages to make themselves, both vocally and instrumentally, sound a bit different and interesting while maintaining a certain sense of cohesiveness that binds all of the songs together as a complete album.

Roam Records