Glass Towers - Halcyon Days | Album Review | By Volume

Got our poster on her wall so every boy that she brings back will see my best side. Johnny Foreigner - Stop Talking About Ghosts

Glass Towers

Halcyon Days

A refreshingly nostalgic debut.

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Author: on June 24, 2014
Dine Alone Records

I’m one of those bores who hates being recommended music. I’ve never quite understood the eagerness with which people take on the words “you might like this”, but perhaps it takes a person more open to, well, optimism than me. Inevitably, the vast majority of music will wind its way in and out of my consciousness with barely more than an arid shrug to show for its troubles (unless they are truly egregious offenders). However, undeniably even more exasperating is the dreaded comparison. “Hey this band sounds like [insert band you like here]!’. In fact, it almost presumptuously distorts or taints them; in my experience they naturally will not be up to the same level (or even reside in the same genre) as their erroneous soundalike partner, and thus sets up a frustrating paradigm of constant division and analysis. Yet, here at ByVolume, I have seen the light. Glass Towers’ debut Halcyon Days is the first official recommendation I’ve received since starting here; it was casually dropped at my feet by our new music editor Dylan and editor/founder Adam, who came straight to me, citing is as “my kind of thing”, and crediting it as “Mew-y / Bloc Party-ish post-punk”. Bold claims indeed. While Bloc Party are an excellent band who I hold in high regard, Mew are one of a handful certifiable demi-gods of my musical cosmos. Yet I’m sure you need me to go no further — by now you’ll have seen the score I’ve given this album. I’ll just say that, yeah, I’ll probably start listening to recommendations from now on. Thanks guys.

The truth is that if you fragment Halcyon Days into parts detached from one another, it not only exhibits a remarkable similarity to these bands, but actually takes it one step further; it’s an exceptionally derivative record, yet while in normal circumstances such a facet would insinuate laziness, but when they all come together, it creates a whole that’s skilfully not quite settled into one camp just yet. It sounds post-punk-revival familiar yet unnervingly disaffected, and this is owed to the almost consistently inconsistent usage of these musical associations and the way the effectively segregate themselves. The fiery, pulsating “Castles” is a post-punk-revival piece that takes the whole Bloc Party thing to near-pastiche levels, but the following track — the west-African-tinged dream pop of “Jumanji” — not only sounds remarkably like No More Stories-era Mew, but completely drops the post-punk pretence. Thus by doing so, Glass Towers barely even drip-feed us clues about what’s coming next, the resulting tension forcing the relentless flow of Halcyon Days. For instance, in the midst of such a raucous, incendiary album, even the somewhat misjudged dirge-cut “Gloom” comes out of absolutely nowhere, like stalling a car at 90mph on the motorway. Clumsy and unfortunate but still thrilling as hell.

Yet, if I were to put my critic hat on, I’ll admit there’s an undeniable, ominous yin and yang to the properties that make Glass Towers’ debut a mostly great listen. As an example, when I start a review, I make extensive lists of bullet points for each track and formulate the points effectively into prose afterwards. However, my list for Halcyon Days consists almost entirely of: In This City = The Music. Tonight = We Are Scientists. You’re Better = Not Even Jail by Interpol, etc. The yin is that I’ve already defended the fact that so many obvious influences persuaded their way into this record, the yang is that it still strikes me as somewhat frustrating for a new band to have created a record that barely has a sound of its own. Another yin is that Halcyon Days is at critical mass; the pristine production and the band’s belief in their own sound mean it’s absolutely bursting with confidence for a debut. This sounds like it should be the band’s second, third or fourth album, such is the quality of often-underappreciated aspects, particularly the excellent song structures. The inevitable yang here is that a decent song structure can’t hide the fact while it took me three full exhilarating listens to realise, Glass Towers’ lyrics are frighteningly uninspiring and forgettable; one of the only lines I remember from the entirety of Halcyon Days is only in my memory due to the unsubtle, childlike usage of the word “silly” that haplessly devalues what I can only imagine were supposed to be the pseudo-profound lyrics to album closer “Foreign Time”.

Truth be told (and this is not to their detriment), Glass Towers are, in a way, out of sync with the rest of the indie rock scene speeding past them. Their sound is certifiably early-2000s — they’ve got the swagger of the post-punk revival at its peak, before the days of the big hitters incessantly attempting to pull at our heart strings or executing protracted droops into electronic music. It’s just rock. It’s just gargantuan, thumping kick drums and shimmering, sweeping guitar riffs, and God has this album made me realise how much I’ve missed it. I’m positive I’m not the only one either; when its punch connects with the public, this debut leaves absolutely no doubt in my mind that Glass Towers will go places, and when festival seasons across the globe grind into action, they’ll be there, packing out tents and coaxing fists into the air to the anthemic, refreshing rush of Halcyon Days.

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