Album Review: Signals Midwest – “Latitudes and Longitudes”

Alternative Press have called Ohio’s Signals Midwest one of the “100 bands you need to know in 2012.” hail from Ohio.   AP has called them one of the bands to watch in 2012. Judging from the sound of the band’s second full length, “Latitudes and Longitudes,” it’s safe to say that the folks over at AP may be on to something.

Not unlike Banquets, one of last year’s highlight bands, Signals Midwest play a sort of post-everything music that I think we’re supposed to call “orgcore” at this point, but frankly I feel like “orgcore” is a better label for a porn subgenre rather than a music subgenre.

Anyway, “Latitudes and Longitudes,” which is Signals Midwest’s first release for Tiny Engines Records, kicks off with the track “In Tensions.” The song itself has a great intro to it, and the track sets the tone for the whole album’s uptempo sonic assault. The layered riffs in “Family Crest” teeter on the brink of careening off the rails, but the band are tight enough to pull off that kind of chaos.

It would be easy to compare Signals Midwest to a band like The Menzingers, though honestly, having had a chance to thoroughly digest both bands’ current albums, I find “Latitudes and Longitudes” to be superior to “On The Impossible Past” in almost every way. Not that the latter is a bad album (it isn’t), but I have a greater admiration for Signals Midwest’s knack for writing personal yet instantly relatable lyrics.

Take the track “January & Seven” as an example. It’s a primarily acoustic track about places we’ve all been to: crumbling , cold apartments with our friends, regret when the electric bill comes in the mail…and about how perfect it is in spite of the chaos (“if this is all a dream then I’m staying asleep – I will hibernate through every freezing winter”).

If I can be critical for a paragraph or so, the backing vocals are a little too rough (pitchy) in some areas, and the vocals in general seem to be the album’s Achilles heel. This isn’t due, however, to the lung capacity of the principal vocalist (Max Stern). Rather, the vocals come across as the only lo-fi recorded part on an otherwise great sounding album. I know the whole ‘overloaded microphone’ sound is “in” now, but when the remainder of the album doesn’t have the same feel it can come off disjointed.

“The Weight & The Waiting” closes the “Latitudes and Longitudes” as an opus that clocks in at just shy of 6 minutes. With horns! In spite of its length, the track seems focused and doesn’t spend a long time wandering; it’s probably the most all-encompassing trip on the album, and may be the best representation of what Signals Midwest have to offer.  Which is a lot. Though it’s early in the year, there is a realistic chance that “Latitudes and Longitudes” ends up on my “Best of 2012” list. You’ll have to stay tuned…

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