Edison Chair: Greatest Hits

I was in an a cappella group in college. That really isn’t much of a statement, since you practically had to step over a different one every time you wanted to get into the dining hall. They were everywhere, and one of them trapped me in its tentacles. I’m not ashamed, though, to admit that I really loved it. I loved when we successfully blended our voices into something smooth that transcended all of us, and I loved being able to put on a show-stealing solo every now and again. Since that experience, I’ve had a special appreciation for intricate vocal parts in musical pieces. And based on the number of a cappella groups I encountered in college, I would bet that I’m not alone in that appreciation.

This is the segment of the population that Edison Chair attempt to appeal to. They describe themselves as a “vocal driven rock band” and they live up to it on their recent release Greatest Hits. The title is apt in two ways: there are several really nice tracks across the album with pleasing hooks and luscious harmonies; but there is also little stylistic cohesion much like you’d find on a Greatest Hits album that spanned several releases in someone’s career. A song like “Far as the Eye Can See” apes melodic lo-fi collectives like the Apples in Stereo or Super Furry Animals and is immediately followed by “I’m Telling You” which sounds like a send-up of 80s hard rock. The next song, “That’s Alright” recalls a rollicking late 60s pop number (check the “We Can Work It Out” reference). It’s hard to get into a groove with this album.

Edison Chair - 'On the Run'

And yet, these songs are actually pretty good. Sixties pop numbers are a really enjoyable genre to recall. The Apples in Stereo influence on “Far as the Eye Can See” makes it one of the most enjoyable tracks on the record for me. “Say Goodbye” could be reborn as a “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing”-style rock ballad of grand proportions, and album opener “I Think I’m Into You” uses “ahhh” background vocals perfectly for a killer chorus as it mixes many of the disparate elements on Greatest Hits into a cohesive whole. And “On the Run” may be the song where the vocals play the most prominent and intricate role – it’s quite a beautiful moment.

I just wish the production were better. I can only imagine if Edison Chair got the treatment from a Danny Reisch or Frenchie Smith that could really give these songs the shine they deserve. Too often the vocals fade into the background, when they are really the distinctive elements of the songs and the group’s overall sound. It’s not something many people are doing here in Austin to the extent that Edison Chair is pulling it off.

I have to apologize that I missed putting this out before their show at the Mohawk this past weekend, as I was expecting to do. So, really sorry for that Edison Chair. Thus, I’m not sure when you can see them next. Hopefully it will be at a place with an awesome sound system and sound guy that can make sure these vocals get their day in the sun. I’m also not currently sure where you can get their album, but I’ll update as soon as we figure that out. Just get these guys on your radar and keep an eye out for them.

– Carter