Friday, March 23, 2012

Top Albums of 2011 - Honorable Mention

I hate to do this, but I need to retroactively give Quiet Company's "We Are All Where We Belong" an honorable mention for my Top Albums of 2011. I didn't pick this album up until last month, but had I grabbed it when it was released in late 2011, I have no doubt that I would have included it in my Top 5.

We Are All Where We Belong by Quiet Company
Spotify: Quiet Company – We Are All Where We Belong
Twitter: @quietcompanytx
Band Website:

At it's core, We Are All Where We Belong is a concept album about a crisis of faith. It's an album by and about someone for whom religion was once a central tenet and who (upon becoming a father) begins to question those tenets in examining how best to prepare his child for life. Two themes that seem to be at play are first: the questioning of one's faith and the reasoning behind one's devotion to a faith; "devotion" (especially when a person has been indoctrinated from childhood) so often being a result of routine and tradition more so than any personal conclusions a person has come to. The second theme at play is the age old desire of a parent to provide their child a better life than the one they had. In We Are All Where We Belong this manifests in a desire by the author to spare his child from the indoctrination and eventual crisis of faith that the author himself has gone through. With the band's previous albums having been seen by many to be "Christian Rock" to the point of having been released by a label known for publishing Christian music, the ideological shift in We Are All Where We Belong is a bold, but sincere effort that makes an indelible mark on the music itself.

I've said before that sincerity in art is one of the things I think separates "mainstream" music from everything else. When one makes art due to the unquenchable need to create versus the desire to simply produce another consumer product, the results often reflect that. We Are All Where We Belong is easily one of the most sincere albums of 2011. It's difficult not to feel for Taylor Muse as the album maps out an emotional journey complete with peaks and valleys, hopes and fears, certainty and doubt. As one might assume, musings on the afterlife (or lack thereof) play a prominent role in several songs, but none so prominently as "Everything Louder Than Everything Else". In what I perceive to be the climax of this album (and easily my favorite track at the moment) Taylor Muse begs "Don't lay me down / I don't ever want to die / I've had to good a time / I really like it here" only to come to the conclusion "But when I go, there will probably be / no angels singing / no harps ringing / no pearly gates / no devil's flames / just nothing nothing nothing nothing". The song ends with a heartfelt lament, a sincere plea by the man who has forsaken what he no longer believes for the harsh truth he believes he was "protected" from all his life: "Don't let me go / I'm not prepared / I'm so damn scared / That I'm almost there". It's beautiful and haunting. It strikes right to the core of me and I absolutely love it.

I've said so much about the themes and the lyrics of this album that one might think I have nothing to say about the music, this however is not the case. The skill and depth on offer in this album is simply brilliant. As someone who tries to follow the local scene and who even pays attention to the lesser known opening acts at a show, I definitely hear a lot of music that isn't quite ready for prime time. Quiet Company is not one of those bands. You could take nearly any of these tracks, put them on national radio tomorrow and people would instantly think they'd missed something ... "Why haven't I heard of this band before?"

I'm probably the worst person to try and describe what certain acts sound like in terms of what other bands they're reminiscent of. The goal of such an exercise is to mention related artists that most people will know and those tend to be the bands I don't listen to much. All I can say is that it's great rock music, full of guitars, horns, keyboards, drums, soaring vocals and strings, and produced to within an inch of it's life. It's not so cynical as to be the kind of thing Pitchfork gets on board with, but if you peruse the pages of Paste you're on the right track. Just check it out already.

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