The ever-experimental Striped Bananas return this summer with a full-length album of freshly inspired, poetic originals.
From the offset, the instrumental set-up appeals, as was often the case with the band’s music. Crimson Cliffs introduces the project with a certain blues-rock meets sixties psychedelic vibe – crystal clear production allowing the very strum of an acoustic guitar to soothe the soul and recreate the live music experience as closely as possible.
While the unusual vocal melody and tone distract a little from this ambiance, there’s plenty being said that provokes a manner of thinking which natural suits the mood of the instrumental, and this trait continues throughout the album. Elements of Pink Floyd stood tall here, then we get a brighter hint of folk-led unity with a dash of heavy fuzz for Never Too Far. Already eclecticism breathes new life into the playlist.
Laughing Water injects even more versatility with a brilliantly unexpected, acoustic rhythm and intimacy. Duncan Shepard’s leading vocals meet with backing singer Chantelle’s in a uniquely juxtaposed fashion, and this pairing of tones becomes a familiar characteristic across Pictures I Hear.
The album’s concept is a fascinating one, and each of these songs work well to explore it in a way that feels like a series of different pictures. Each track has its own setting, its own mood, memories, and associated images. To transform these visual musings into music is a wonderful thing.
Octopus Eyes stands out for the varied vocal lead and the attention-grabbing imagery – alongside this vintage soundscape that slowly but surely weaves its multi-layered ambiance around you. Some great riffs appear here between verses.
Other highlights include the mildly distorted and soulful instrumental outcry of Live This Day. Smooth and simple vocals blend naturally, offering an indie-rock dynamic that paves the way well towards the sudden repeat of the hook; complete with those quicker dashes of choir-like, lyric-free vocals. The concept is one that manages to connect in a powerful way if you let it.
New Dawn is also an easy one to escape into – a more acoustic, up-close delivery creates that psychedelic, retro togetherness once again. Then the instrumental weight and mighty bass-line of Ship’s Axe hits with effective impact, right before the crisp finger-picking of Green Paradise offers a final hit of variety that further utilizes imagery to take you somewhere far away.
Always a band to toy with the very fabric of melody and reach out into unknown conceptual territories in a thoughtful and original way, The Striped Bananas do what they do best throughout this new album, and the production quality really lets their sound pour through to a bold degree. The closing and title-track rounds things off beautifully.