Blind Pilot: 3 Rounds and a Sound

blindpilot_3roundsandasoundIntriguing acoustic indie rock from Portland, Oregon

One of the foundations of sound mixing is that you can emphasize one sound by de-emphasizing others. Portland, Oregon’s Blind Pilot is a good example of how this principle works on a band level. Israel Nebeker and Ryan Dobrowski started out as a duo whose songs, built mainly on guitar and drums, emphasized lyrics and vocal melodies by stripping away all the other distractions. Their first full-length CD adds a second string player and a bassist, but even as they absorb touches of vibraphone, violin and horns, the arrangements retain the fragile sparseness that serves to spotlight Nebeker’s melodious voice.

Likening Nebeker to the Shins’ James Mercer acknowledges the high edge in each singer’s voice, but only skims the surface of their styles. Mercer is, at heart, a rock vocalist, while Nebeker sings with more carefully constructed style, doubling his vocals, singing harmonies, and caressing his lyrics with thoughtfully stretched words and sounds. Backed by low-key mostly acoustic backings, Nebeker sheds the theatrics required of a rock vocalist, settles into the coffeehouse volume of a folk singer, and draws listeners into his lyrics with agonizingly beautiful melodies.

Nebeker’s songs are crafted around ear-catching phrases, but even as you sing along, the verses remain enigmatic. But instead of remaining impenetrable assemblages of poetics, Blind Pilot communicates their songs’ emotions through Nebeker’s vocal tone and the band’s subtle instrumental support. The lyrical imagery may remain abstract, but the feelings of loneliness, remorse, fallibility, and mortality, the longing to reach out and the reality of sharply pulling back, all resonate deeply. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

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