Socratic was a band like many others coming into their own during the mid-2000s, possessing everything required for break-out success, but somehow managing to fall short. Be it the high concentration of artists crowding social networks at the time, or the resurgence of frankly awful electronic music, Socratic failed to make waves beyond the DIY touring circuit. And despite their almost bubble-gum pop tendencies and wide appeal, they eventually fell off the radar. Now, six years later, Socratic has returned, and instead of relying on label support, has decided to follow the method of Radiohead’s In Rainbows and self-release their self-titled album, joining a growing list of artists, who like Socratic, were poised for mainstream success.
To fully understand Socratic (The Album), one must first be aware of the band’s aforementioned past and their signing to Drive-Thru Records; a label who after a decade of propelling artists from the independent scene to the Billboard 200, managed to fold soon after releasing the band’s last album. As a result, lyrical themes range from discontent and disappointment — “The Critics” refers to the band’s hope for prevailing success as a “blind man’s dream,” and criticizes the mechanics of the music industry – to cynicism and the so-called “American Dream” – homes, cars, credit cards and financial woes are all subject to the narrator’s disparagement on “Give and Take Two.”
With the pessimism rightfully found in the lyrical content of the album, it finds no place in the actual instrumentation, which favors the band’s indie-pop roots. And unlike the words he sings, a resilience and well-rested exuberance fills singer-guitarist Duane Okun’s voice. Most of the album is bright, cruises at a medium tempo and builds its verses around large choruses worthy of summer radio. “Curtain Call” and “Money On The Radio” are perfect examples of this formula, as both rush through a relatively quiet verse, before bursting into a colossal chorus filled with the crunch of the previously absent guitars.
For an album written without the help of co-writers and produced entirely by the band, you would be hard-pressed to find a more glossed and perfected collection of songs. That gloss is not to be mistaken for the obvious signs of major label tampering — manipulated vocals and pitched drums — but it’s used to great effect where it counts, in the crafting of the songs. “Charlie Parker (Music Will Save His Soul),” one of the record’s standout tracks, features various horns and whistles written to accent the light piano leads and minimal guitar and bass presence. “Days I Did Not Belong” follows with wide, yet subtle strings, continuing the trend of using auxiliary instrumentation to add texture and much needed liveliness to drive one of the album’s slower developing songs. It’s an expert display of indie-pop, performed by a band with knowledge of what works within the realm.
Along with the praise this album overwhelmingly deserves, it comes with one major fault: it’s length. Clocking in at fifty minutes, Socratic (The Album) is about two tracks too long for an engaging pop album. At times dragging and repetitive, the record could have done without the ballads found at the tale end (“Think In Dreams,” “The Truth In Lies”).
Sound Quality: Most likely because of the album’s long run-time (even after the elimination of “Save Yourself” from the tracklisting), the grooves on the vinyl are very tight on the single LP. This of course results in sound quality only slightly enhanced from the digital version of the album, with lower volumes. Despite this, the sound is still extremely clear and crisp thanks to the album’s great production value, and it’s generally free of surface noise.
Packaging: Released in conjunction with the vinyl pressing of Socratic’s debut album Lunch For The Sky, Broken Heart Records presents a fairly basic packaging job for the self titled record. Pressed on about 140-grams, the record is housed in a single-pocket jacket. One side of the insert displays a photo seemingly from the cover-art photo shoot, with lyrics printed in an extremely difficult to read cursive font opposite to that.
Summary: Put simply, Socratic (The Album) is an extremely well crafted album; especially considering the lack of a production team outside the band members themselves. Although a slight misstep is found in the album’s length, Socratic has managed to release the album of their career, with spot-on writing, instrumentation and vocal execution from start to finish.
Make Sure To Spin: “Curtain Call,” and “Charlie Parker (Music Will Save His Soul).”
You can still pick up the album over at Broken Heart Records.