Bombast doesn’t seem to have a place in indie music much in 2013. The Arcade Fire are the last big indie band that could lay claim to the true Springsteen-ian ideal of bombast, and so much of today’s landscape tries to shirk from the potential bigness of rock music. Deerhunter and Kurt Vile opt for a lo-fi production aesthetic. Phosphorescent go for minimal melodies and James Blake prefers minimal arrangements. The whole folksy movement (The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men) likes cuteness instead of grandeur, and punkish acts like Wavves and Savages fill their songs with power instead of space.
Black Books is different. They deal in the delicate atmospherics of Band of Horses, but with the stadium-sized bombast of Coldplay. So when they sing, “I couldn’t breathe / You’re exceptional” on “Favorite Place,” it actually feels like the instruments are knocking the wind out of you. It’s a slow-burning track (with a phenomenal music video) that is full of power in all of the subtlest ways, and is a true achievement.
“Favorite Place” is the only track from this year’s EP, Aquarena, that made it onto their full-length debut. That record is already out in Europe, where Black Books have played festivals and opened for The Flaming Lips, but it won’t see a U.S. release until August at the earliest.
Until then, though, this ATX band should be on your radar screen. Aquarena is available online and on Spotify for us Texans to hear, and includes some excellent other tracks, like “Marfa,” which exemplifies Black Books’ approach through it’s patience, elegance and hefty emotional payoff.
Separately, Black Books released as a single, “The Big Idea,” which will serve as the centerpiece of their forthcoming LP. It’s an immediately gratifying track on which the Band of Horses (and possibly My Morning Jacket) comparisons come most strongly to life. It’s another track that you can hear right now, and between Spotify and Soundcloud, tens of thousands of people have already taken advantage of the opportunity. The massive guitars, soaring vocals and undulating synth sounds create an epic masterpiece.
And all of this is only build up to the main event. Black Books’ self-titled debut album will have much of the same sort of music, with some songs that are arguably even better than what they have released to us so far this year. “Paradise” takes their moody atmospherics and actually fits them with a driving rock beat for a foundation. “Alley Cats” strips away the grandiose production to emphasize the emotion at the heart of all of Black Books’ recent tracks. “Something to Remember” offers a hidden groove that slowly reveals itself as even funkier than you first imagine.
Get excited for this record. Black Books have perfected a sound that should appeal to a lot of fans of both underground and mainstream rock. They are starting to gather a lot of success and will be back in their hometown in a big way before you know it.
– Carter Delloro