Buried Beds accomplishes the former on “Tremble the Sails,” but the latter has struggles. Rare is the group that can have it both ways.
Buried Beds relies on piano to carry their poppy side and guitars to carry their darker ideas. That’s enough to throw red flags up in my mind; something about a house divided or such. It doesn’t help that the piano songs here are perky, wonderful gems. They make the heavier guitar-centric pieces feel like lead weights. “Breadcrumb Trail” is a blast of indie-pop goodness, complete with plinking piano, “la-la”s, interlocking vocal lines, swooning strings and a huge finale. If there were a whole album of this, I wouldn’t be complaining at all.
“Telegram” is mellower, but still has a lilting air lent by the ivories and vocal performance. “Shepard’s Keep” and “Just Hold Me” are quiet and pensive, keeping the charm in a Regina Spektor-esque way. The former introduces a unique choir, while the latter is a male/female duet augmented by cello (yes!).
But when the six-strings are prominent, they bring along male lead vocals, and things drop to average or worse. “Ivory Towers” is a nice tune, but it’s nothing that memorable compared to “Breadcrumb Trail.” “Your Modern Age” is a distorted mess that doesn’t fit the feel of the album at all. “Steady Hand” fits a bit better (less mega-crunch distortion and more strings), but it still contrasts with the mood of the best cuts.
And it’s not all one or the other — “Grandma’s Bow” is a piano-led serious idea (not so great), and the acoustic guitar on “Home” neatly matches the pensive feel from “Just Hold Me.” But on the whole, the piano and guitar fight one another.
“Tremble the Sails” is great as a collection of singles, but stuck next to each other on an album, it’s just confusing. —Stephen Carradini