Album: The One You Feed – EP
Have you ever wanted two things so badly it hurt, yet both things were in stark opposition to one another? I know I have—to want two things with equal desperation, yet knowing that where one existed, the other could not. I was in tenth grade and had just suffered my first true break up—the kind people write songs and novels about–we’re talking about the true high school heartbreak here. All I really wanted was to be with her, yet just as much, I wanted her to be happy, and I knew I wasn’t the one who could make that happen. I was staring at a no-win situation—down the muzzles of two terrifying wolves, where it was up to me which one I would choose to feed. Michigan post-hardcore act Desires take this emotionally devastating dichotomy and give it a soundtrack with their heart-rending debt effort, The One You Feed. Taking a leaf out of the poetic and passionate play books of Being as an Ocean and La Dispute, Desires break into the scene with little more than five sad songs and a can-do attitude–which turns out to be just about all they need.
With instrumentation forged by icy Michigan winters and thawed with warm, fluid feeling, Desires’ sound can best be described as organic, earthy post-hardcore with a distinctly Midwestern twist. Drummer Brenden Wilson wages war on his kit, hammering and pounding away with practiced, punctual ferocity enough to give every song a solid, steady heartbeat. His erratic pummeling on “Safe Haven” and the climax to “On Being Alone” is technically savvy without stealing the listener’s attention—and his quick, catchy patterns on “Mercury” synchronize brilliantly with the groovy, snappy low-end from bassist Aaron York. Wilson and York work excellently with one another, where the former is steady and punchy, the latter is dancy and groovy, elegantly weaving smooth, slinking bass lines around Wilson’s perfunctory kick drum. However, where Desires’ low end is an excellent selling point and the foundation of their dynamic, the fretwork from guitarists Alex Brisby and Conner Clair brings the warming, soulful atmosphere to fruition. “On Being Alone” is a brilliant example: opening with warm chords and a soft percussive background, the song quickly builds into an energetic display of no-holds-barred emotion—and the remainder of The One You Feed follows suit. Brisby and Clair harmonize and clash tastefully throughout the release, creating a soundscape as diverse as Michigan’s own earth and forestry.
Where the band’s musicianship is emotional and engaging in its own right, it isn’t until the vocals from frontman Steve Goldberg start that the listener truly feels Desires plucking at their heartstrings. Both catchy and grating, Goldberg’s various vocal styles—from spoken word to gritty growl—tell stories of frank honesty. Where the closing portion of “On Being Alone” sees him make brilliant usage of careful turns-of-phrase, “Safe Haven” uses a literary framing mechanism that keeps the listener engrossed as if they were eyes-deep in a page-turning novel. Finally, both “Crux” and “Mercury” are more straightforward songs where Goldberg flexes his clean singing voice to great avail—with choruses and verses both soaring like sparrows and Hawks into the listener’s ears, delivering messages of solemn, stern heartbreak and loneliness.
For a debut album, Desires do a great many things right. Their musicianship is masterful—blending aggression and melody beautifully, best heard in “Safe Haven” or the latter half of “On Being Alone.” And where the instrumentation is exemplary, Goldberg’s lyricism and vocal styles are even more so—as songs like “On Being Alone” see him doing a Hotel Books and Being as an Ocean influenced bray and bark routine better than either “big name” band does. The only hiccup The One You Feed seems to gag on is the track “Ochre & Mauve,” which, while starting with a creative and catchy turn-of-phrase (Goldberg is great at those), quickly overstays its welcome. Instead of a peaceful and tasteful climax to the album, it seems lazy and uninspired after repeated listens—too simple for its own good, boring the listener before its brief run-time concludes. Outside of “Ochre & Mauve” (which I’ve taken to calling “Ochre & Mediocre”), The One You Feed is passionate, powerful, poignant and perfect—an encouraging debut from a young band.
For Fans Of: Being As An Ocean, La Dispute, Hotel Books, Departures
By: Connor Welsh