We recently talked about the album’s content at length in The Modern Vinyl Podcast. This piece will focus solely on the vinyl presentation.
In a word, underwhelming. Take the first two tracks — “No Room In Frame” and “Black Sun” — for example. The opening bass of “No Room” is weak, muted, and the thump of the percussion doesn’t exactly sound natural. And as we get to Gibbard’s vocals, something’s off. They usually push his strong work to the front — at least in past vinyl releases, like Plans, they have— but he’s too far back in the mix, not quite matching up with the instrumental work around him. This is most noticeable in “Black Sun,” and especially in its chorus. “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive” is the first time the mix truly comes alive (maybe that’s simply its upbeat nature), with the percussion finally blasting off. Gibbard’s vocals, though, still seem a bit buried.
In what’s not exactly a surprise, the more minimal tracks, like “You’ve Haunted Me” and “Hold No Guns,” are the standouts. The vocals no longer have to fight through multiple layers and even the low end is more refined, the light thumps almost like footsteps coming up from behind. As we get into the hook of “Haunted,” the different vocal layers provided are given proper separation, as each has its own place. “Hold No Guns” is the true standout though, the slide across the acoustic guitar crystal clear, giving the proceedings true texture. And finally, “El Dorado” is a busy, yet pleasant experience, as you can hear the little after-effect they applied to each beat of the drums. It won’t really blow you away, but it’s one of the better “faster” songs.
The overall art direction should be praised for its simplicity, the white backdrop on the cover art allowing one to fully focus on the centerpiece and its six photo strips (making up what reminds me of Washington state). The “Kintsugi” on the front is embossed, as is the gold border on the back cover. The gatefold is quite plain, but that does allow for the lyrical content to take precedent, the easy-to-read, block typeface a nice choice in regard to the simple imagery. The gold and white vinyl set that was offered through the band’s webstore is just about the perfect complement, although this writer received the standard black. There is a D-side etching with all variants, but it’s not exactly worth the effort, as the image is a re-run from the cover and the band/album name is again, something not exactly needed at this point. I hope you know the names by the time you flip to side D.
With the center labels, again, it didn’t have to be so simple, but you have to admire their dedication to this vision. The actual material making up the gatefold jacket is solid, not the cheap material you often receive with major label products. Barsuk put some love into this portion.
The colored vinyl option, on white and gold, was a great selection, matching up perfectly with the packaging. The band also offered up a slipmat at their webstore and even a cassette option. And a CD was included with the vinyl purchase, always a nice touch.
“The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive,” “El Dorado” & “Hold No Guns”