Stencil – The Dead Lie Golden

Stencil - The Dead Lie Golden

Stencil - The Dead Lie Golden

Stencil would like you to believe that their debut album, The Dead Lie Golden, is an eclectic mix of musical moods with cinematic lyricism influenced by the likes of Elliot Smith, Sufjan Stevens and Neutral Milk Hotel. But to me, the quintet from Seattle sound more like a cross between the neo-psychedelic soft-rock heard on Midlake’s The Trials Of Van Occupanther and the seductive folk-pop of The Boy Bathing’s A Fire To Make Preparations, only with less refined songwriting.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact The Dead Lie Golden contains some amiable dream-pop, seemingly sculpted from 70’s soft rock influences, tastefully garnished with horns and melancholic strings and some pleasantly soft piano passages. It’s just that the songwriting is not real strong and the arrangements aren’t dynamic enough, resulting in some moderately pleasing yet unspectacular songs.

The tracks play out like bedroom-pop singer-songwriter fare that has been expanded to a full rock band sound with bass, drums, keys and guitars, but with mixed results. The band doesn’t explore enough divergent melodies or tinker with novel arrangements and tend to rely on the lyrics to add some bite. While the words are eloquent and literate, the vocals lack the expressive feeling and animated flair necessary to draw out any emotional connectivity with the listener.

There a few songs, however, like the more upbeat “The Prize”, the alluring “Vignettes” and the moody “Trials” where Stencil find the right balance of charming folk-pop and quaint, captivating indie-rock and allow the songs to develop some charismatic flavor with warm textures. But overall there’s probably not enough intricately layered dream pop floating around, and  the melodies are too repetitive to keep indie-rock fans contented.

 The Dead Lie Golden works best when you don’t give it your full attention. If you do, you’ll notice the songs don’t have quite enough substance and are a bit too drab, and while not that bad, will most likely be put on the shelf to stay after only a few spins.

Recommended If You Like (RIYL):  Eric Metronome, Setting Sun, Midlake and The Boy Bathing

Stencil on the web: www.stencilmusic.com