By: Shelby Lum
Stepping into the unknown arena of nontraditional instrumentation is daunting. Most bands struggle to master a conventional band set up with drums lead, rhythm, and bass guitar. Still, a few have ventured into new territory with unusual instruments. Ra Ra Riot has been making headway with its use of baroque pop, fusing classical with modern. Hey Marseilles, like Ra Ra Riot has craftily melded classical influences into folk music.
Hey Marseilles’ newest album, Lines We Trace, was released today, March 5th.
“Tides” opens with a clarinet, and vocalist, Matt Bishop breaks into the song as the violins begin to swell. The intro is subtle but unique, and the clarinet weaves its way into the flow of the song so much so that it is hard to distinguish it. The most important part of Bishop’s singing is his honest quality. Now, bands and singers are notorious for claiming “honest” music with little or more often nothing to back it up.
Bishop’s vocals really are just–honest. He sounds like a brother or a friend you haven’t seen in a while, but are still familiar with. Maybe it’s not that his voice is honest, but he just seems so familiar you want to trust his lyrics.
“Heart Beats” begins with a quiet acoustic guitar, and Bishop’s vocals dominating the track. When the chorus strikes, the drums do too, mimicking the nature of a beating heart. The ups and downs of the song seem to come and go much like the ups and downs of a heart beat. The tempo switches from the rising drums and orchestral sections to just the simple acoustic guitar.
With a different opening, “Dead of Night” leads into the track with a soft piano, then a jazzy drum follows. The third track has more of a pop hint in the vocals, than the first two, and the steady kick drum leads you through the song.
Guitar/ violin plucks start “Elegy,” a cutesy sounding follow up to “Dead of Night.” The airy, plucked guitar, which is later replaced by violins gives a more careless, easy-going tone.
The bottom line with “Bright Star Burning” is that Bishop sounds nearly identical to Death Cab For Cutie’s (and Postal Service’s) Ben Gibbard. On the other tracks Bishop skirts dangerously close to sounding like the indie-pop star, but “Bright Star Burning” really seals the deal, and I for one don’t really have a huge problem with that. I also thoroughly enjoyed the fantastic baseline throughout the entire song.
I could be mistaken, but was that a harp opening “Building Glare”?
Smacked straight into the center of the album is “Madrona” a beautifully antiqued interlude compromised mostly of a piano piece.
“Rainfall,” much like “Heart Beats” adopts the song title into the tone of the music itself. The soft guitar and occasional violin create a melancholy, rain like style.
“Cafe Lights” is the most somber track, almost pleading a lover to stay. The violin sections hit a new high, and “Cafe Lights” was one of my favorite songs of the album.
Fittingly, Lines We Trace ends with another instrumental track, but this one showcasing the stringed instruments more than in “Madrona.”
Hey Marseilles has successfully trumped other bands in its ability to seamlessly fuse classical instrumentation with modern folk and pop. Bishop’s voice isn’t overly “folky,” but smooth and serene. Granted, the band is larger than many, but with good reason: they need all those players for all those instruments.
Hey Marseilles will be playing Vinyl on Friday, March 22nd.