While their album might be called “Mood Swings” these guys are pretty consistent falling somewhere in-between Snow Patrol and Death Cab For Cutie. More soulful than Death Cab and not as caught up as being an introspective indie rock band, then go for the big melodies like Snow Patrol and embrace pop as not being a bad word. The album cascades from vocal centric ballads to more dance inducing flourishes of electronic soft rock. The reflective tone that shifts to big radio rock on the first song, is abandoned for a summer high school party soundtrack feel on the song that follows. And so the album goes shifting moods with each songs while retaining an upbeat undercurrent that would be the signature of Southern Californian rock these days.
The singer’s mellow tenor harmonizes with over dubs in a manner that makes me think of Jimmy Eat World. This was obviously spawned from that era of “emotional rock” that came into being late nineties. Ships Have Sailed’s most rock element is in the guitar playing. It might be third generation Police influenced, but they share Andy Summer’s effects have tone. Sure the Edge could also be another source this sound comes from. The Drummer is filling in for a drum machine though it sounds like the case could be the other way around as the hybrid electronic sound bands like the Postal Service made popular is intact here.
The structure follows the condensed pop formula, keeping all songs under four minutes and going for the big hooks that are to be hammered into the back of your mind. Sometimes this is more inspired than others, “Insomnia” the steam begins to leak into bland, though the band are skill songwriters and this album keeps you engaged more often than not. Any one who knows my writing here would say happy pop is not my thing, but I do appreciate the emotional connection a band like Snow Patrol makes with the listener and an objective listen discerns this band is on a similar current.
Production wise the album is immaculate for what they are going for and with this sort of thing this element matters almost more than the playing. The production shines the brightest on the vocals and where they are placed in the song. The harmony vocals are mixed tightly against one another and the more breathy sections of vocals sound like he is right up in your ear whispering. This is highlighted on a song like “Echoes” that has an ethereal sound that is not what you would consider typical of their sound. Then they are able to achieve a more organic sound in strum of “Imaginary Friend”
Overall if laid back yet emotive pop rock with an electronic sheen is your thing then you ship has arrived with Ships Have Sailed, you will be getting on a the ground floor because before you know it these guys will be plastered all over every show on the CW.