“Olly Oxen Free”
3.5 out of 5 stars
On their second album, Mason Proper have crafted a tight indie-rock sound that lends itself to a variety of styles, while remaining consistent in tone throughout the album.
The album opens with the mesmerizing “Fog,” which builds over four minutes with dark tones balanced by a light piano melody. This is followed by “Point A to Point B,” which manages to insert a great pop hook into the chorus while maintaining the dark undertones established by the opening track.
The band continues in this fashion, creating a brooding post-punk sound on “Only a Moment,” easily the album’s centerpiece. The band executes the crunching guitars, whining synthesizers and chanted vocals seemingly effortlessly.
The album is carefully produced, building on a foundation of hard-edged indie-rock and showering it in electronic effects and backing vocals for an overall rich sound.
Unfortunately, after a very strong first half, the album ends with a whimper, packing all the best punches up front and letting the momentum drop off in the final tracks. The highlights are still worth listening to again and again, however, and it will be exciting to see what the group has in store for its next album.
Key Tracks: “Point A to Point B” and “Only a Moment”
“We All Need a Reason to Believe”
3 out of 5 stars
Valencia is a quintet of well-meaning pop-punkers playing in an extremely crowded genre, and while their slick, well-produced style makes their songs go down easy, they don’t make much of an attempt to separate themselves. On their sophomore release, however, it doesn’t seem like they’re too concerned with that.
After releasing 2005’s “This Could Be a Possibility,” they’ve been called up to the big leagues (Columbia) for this release. Extensive production is evident in the smooth guitars and carefully programmed backing vocals.
“We All Need a Reason to Believe” has good intentions. Much like their first record, frontman Shane Henderson’s lyrics often deal with being away from home and missing loved ones. The loss of his girlfriend to an unfortunate tractor accident has clearly marked a more serious turn in songwriting for Henderson. We can’t doubt the sincerity of their music, but it doesn’t amount to anything groundbreaking. But for those just looking to sing along, Valencia delivers with this release.
Key Tracks: “Better Be Prepared” and “Where Did You Go?”