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Music Review: The Comas – Spells

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The Comas received some buzz back in 2004 after singer, and main songwriter, Andy Herod broke up with Oscar-nominated actress Michelle Williams. In the wake of their publicized split, Herod went into the studio with the band and recorded a melancholy CD of break-up tunes that garnered the band considerable attention. Music magazines raved about their release Conductor, giving it high accolades. Now three years later, Herod and The Comas are back with a new CD, Spells.

Spells was recorded at Allaire Studios in upstate New York, where Rush recorded their latest CD, the exceptional Snakes and Arrows. Like the Canadian prog-gods, The Comas utilize the cavernous space of the studio to let their music soar, most notably on the closer “After The Afterglow”. The lush orchestral arrangements are nicely countered by dirty, fuzzed-out guitars, and sharp vocals. It’s an interesting combination, pulling the listener in with catchy hooks and pummeling them with instrumental excess. It’s a tough give and take, though. Some of the songs suffer from overindulgence — a little too much lushness, not enough guttural growl.

But there are more than enough stand-out to make the occasional misstep simply a fluke. For every song that immediately sticks with you, like the lead-off track “Red Microphones” (complete with a quirky retro keyboard riff), there is a song like “Sarah T”, a particularly engaging and evocative track which reveals more layers each time you listen to it. Songs like that stay with you. The churning “Come My Sunshine” and “New Wolf” are two other songs with strong melodic foundations holding up a swirling mass of sound.

The band is tight. Even though the rhythm section is fairly new, they mesh together seamlessly. Nicole Gehweiler is Herod’s co-vocalist, bringing in some depth and nuances to the songs and nicely interplaying on “Now I’m a Spider.”

Lyrically the songs echo a variety of themes, but include an unusually high dose of fantasy driven images. The lyrics are brighter than those on Conductor, which became a de-facto break-up album for jilted lovers. Herod’s wordplay gets sharper as well.

Though mainstream radio airplay is obviously out for an indie band without “that image,” hopefully The Comas will continue on with the success from their last CD and bring in some new fans with this one, because it’s one of the better releases this year.

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