(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

CD review - Sennen, Age of Denial (2010/2011)

Sennen is reaching out for the US market by officially releasing Age of Denial here this month. The album released in UK last year. Their blend of shoegaze, pop, and indie rock should push some familiar buttons for audiences over here.

Sennen's sound is polished, with smooth pop harmonies and a wonderful sense of dynamics. But their Achilles heel on Age of Denial is the bait and switch as they jump between personalities. The title track offers a first taste, which presents the band as progressive indie rockers. The relentless driving beat and rich collection of sonic textures promises an album to challenge Trail of Dead. The drum work is solid, but it constantly changes to support the different song sections. The vocals shift between whipsaw phrasing and close harmonies. Age of Denial as a whole is a finely constructed wall of sound, with good dynamics and a perfect balance of control and chaos. Pretty keyboard fills and strings coexist with cymbal splash static and flailing guitars.

If the rest of Age of Denial carried out this promise, I'd have a new favorite album of the year. The next track, With You, keeps up the energy, but the groove is uptempo shoegazer. By the third track, A Little High, all of the momentum of the first track has drained. The staccato guitar pop presents a pleasant recollection of Teenage Fan Club and the thicker sound of the bridge brings back some chaos, but it's a far different band than Age of Denial implies. Later songs will ride the shoegazer vibe into dreamy pop and gentler sounds.

On the edgier side, Sennen gestures again towards Teenage Fan Club on some of the tracks. The band also recalls Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on the dark tribal beat of S.O.S. The retro formulaic foundation supports a nice layer of looser jam. Can't See the Light takes that BRMC darkness and builds up a solid rocker. The bass and vocals are strong and smooth while the guitar injects chaos. The blend offers a touch of what the opening track promised. The jams build into a trancy groove.

All told, Sennen presents three different faces: the progressive indie rock band, the driving shoegazers, and the dreamy pop group. Depending on your tastes, that may prove wonderful or maddening. Across all the songs, the only constants are their sweet harmonies and their balance of smooth and rough sounds.

Sip on a gin and tonic followed by an amber ale chaser to balance your listening experience for Age of Denial.

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