from the album Keep No Score
Download an MP3 of “Careful Hands” from EmotionalPunk.com
Notwithstanding the fact that Sleeping at Last were seen opening for supergroup Switchfoot a couple years ago, and despite the fact that their anthemic, expressive record, Ghosts was released on Interscope Records, Sleeping at Last are still a mysterious group. It seems, their tight, close relationship with one another (two are brothers, and the band’s manager is their mother) is almost an utmost reflection of their fanbase. Those who are SAL enthusiasts won’t bend for anyone; they’re practically as close as family. And, when one really recognizes and grabs onto the truth and gorgeous inner-beauty Sleeping at Last seem to flawlessly document on record, it’s hard not to find them irresistible.
Keep No Score, the third release from this transcendent pop band, seems to proceed in the way one would expect, considering it’s being released by themselves — it’s unbelievably personal. Immediately, singer Ryan O’Neal dives into the literal tension and thrill of love — and one can almost feel the cold, icy depth of the ocean as he explores the plagues of loneliness in the song’s intense bridge: “…walking on the ocean floor, feeding sharks out of our hands…”
It might be almost too fitting to mention that “Tension & Thrill” was meant to be on the Spiderman 2 soundtrack –ironically, Keep No Score as a whole is as O’Neal described it to me: cinematic. And, truly, as the band reveals, the songs on this record are filled with dynamics. In one instance, in the tender “Careful Hands,“ has an eventual mingling of strings, pianos, and guitars (but mostly strings) as the song escalates into an honestly breathtaking symphony of sound. In the next instant, “Needle & Thread” introduces an acoustic guitar — most notably bringing to mind the spectacular track “Hurry” from their last record — but this time, the song is touched with strings and keys to match the delicate acoustic guitar sounds. The production by mastermind John Goodmanson (Blonde Redhead, Death Cab for Cutie, Sleater-Kinney) doesn’t hurt either — the intricate, textured sounds on Keep No Score never sound too intense or too much. Goodmanson did an excellent job balancing the often hugely layered sound the band was capable of — and it sounds nothing short of exactly right.
To take it objectively, while Ghosts tended to be filled with more soaring, accessible chorusing and splendid pop songs, Keep No Score is overflowing with introspect and sorrow. Not a song on this record follows suit with “Say,” the electrifying radio-ready single from Ghosts. In fact, there are rare occasions when loud electric guitars are used– aside from the stimulating “Levels of Light” or bouncy “Envelopes,” of course. Instead, though this is to make a greater assumption than one can easily presume, it might seem the band Sleeping at Last have used their label-less opportunity to at once survey and expose their inner thoughts. In any case, Keep No Score is filled with enough dreamy, passionate melodies and lyrics that will render anyone motionless and in awe. It captures exquisite beauty and paints intense soundscapes more successfully than any record I’ve heard in a long, long time — even since they, themselves released an album.