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Music Review: Greycoats – Setting Fire To The Great Unknown

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The first thought to my head as I picked up the CD is that this band must really love Joss Whedon's Firefly series. But then I realized the fan club of that show called themselves browncoats, and all was better.

Nothing against Firefly or its huge fan base, but I didn't want to hear possible allusions to the show in the music nor read about how obsessed they are about the show in the bio. Call me jaded or call me tired of hearing how God-like Whedon is.

Ugh. I need to move on.

Greycoats is an indie band from Minneapolis, Minnesota whose music surprises with its depth and consistency. Released in 2008, Setting Fire To The Great Unknown is Greycoats' first full-length album.

The Minnesota quartet (Jon Reine – guitar, vocals; Titus Decker – keyboards, vocals; Mike Smith – drums; and Matt Patrick – bass) describes their music as melodramatic. The album's moodiness and overall melancholy aren't products of classic Douglas Sirk films from the 1950s, but rather a more abstract from of transcendentalism (recall Henry David Thoreau) in a cinematic context. Or if that doesn't tickle your fancy, think of a more consistently mellow Mute Math or a more ballad-filled Keane.

Greycoats"Learning To Remain" opens with a wavy melody, following the realistic pattern of being sad to fine to optimistic about life and what's really left: "With the photographic memory it's getting harder to forget / With the photographic memory it's getting hard to really live." The following "Revenge" might be another path to choose to ensure self-preservation.

Reine's vocals fit the band's melodies perfectly, finding the right balance of emoting and wailing without making sounding tragic or commiserative. "Goodbye, Sweet Youth, Goodbye" and "An Echo In The Dark" fit the mold best, and "Watchman, What Is Left Of The Night?" is simply splendid.

For the most part Setting Fire To The Great Unknown is unfailing in its ability to transform subtlety into lush harmonies. "That Great And Terrible Day" is an anomalous track at the album's midpoint that annoyingly disrupts its fluidity. Other than that, Greycoats might seem to have a compelling argument for a new indie subgenre — melodrama.

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About Tan The Man

A proud dork and loser, Tan The Man writes mostly about film and music, and has previously covered the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, South By Southwest and WonderCon.