One of Deep Elm Record’s many great bands, Athletics are a 5-piece alternative-indie/post-rock band from Asbury Park, NJ. This is their follow-up effort to “Why Aren’t I Home?” and is a half hour of music over 5 tracks. Athletics brings to the table a mix of post-rock musical elements with indie style clean vocals and nu-metal/post-hardcore esque screams. While I’m a fan of most of their clean vocals, I have to say that I generally find the latter to detract from the rest of what makes the band so good.
The album begins with a highly ambient intro as the first track begins to take shape. Guitar tones are vibrant and moody and the vocals further add to the somber vibe. The track kicks it into overdrive halfway through as guitars rip through the mix in perfect rhythm with the drums. A beautiful clean guitar plays amidst the static in the left channel while a second guitar pierces through the right channel before fading away as the track edges back down to a close. The mixing starts to shine in the second track, a nearly 9 minute behemoth that opens as a bass heavy low-lying guitar layer sets the ground work for a clean guitar layer and prominent yet patient drums that sound open and airy. While I do enjoy the singing, I’ll hold back my opinion of the lyrics and let you decide. There’s no reason to be overly critical on them as the excellent layered guitar work really carries this track anyhow.
I feel like a lot of post-rock releases miss the mark with a lack of deep bass, which is why I was overjoyed when the third track opened again with a bassy layer underneath its vocals. Deep Bass just really seems to bring out the best in surrounding instruments, especially drums, much like how a little bit of spice sets off the flavor of a steak. The wide open sound staging on the album deserves credit for the flurry of layered guitars really shining through in its starring role when the vocals disappear. The album makes an absolutely perfect transition to the next track, a testament to the great synergy the 5 tracks possess with one another. “IV” delves into a much more minimal ambient track in comparison with the rest of the album and the vocals are the softest on the EP. The album comes to an end with a dark sounding piano and singing with a haunting echo effect. While I like the idea normally and am all for the piano ballad closer, The end result comes off sounding overproduced and missed the mark, at least with me anyways.
At the end of the day this is the type of genre spanning work that can only help the likes of the post-rock genre. While some post-rock traditionalists will be turned off by the vocals, indie and alternative fans will feel comfortable with this EP as they are introduced to post-rock sounds and elements. That exposure will in tune help the genre grow. And that my friends is something that this crazy music industry desperately needs. 9-12-212
Pay what you want on bandcamp: http://athleticsmusic.bandcamp.com/