Where the Engines Lay
Chapel Hill quartet io have carved a surprisingly rich and textured debut record, dwelling in grandiose emo and careful post-rock (but certainly not post-punk, as suggested in the press release). Vocalist Ben Flanagan is the band’s driving force, his vocals bold and anguished, his lyrics balancing between the sentimental and the obtuse. The band is tight as hell, the backing rhythm fiery and the melodies played with careful craftsmanship. Elliott is a natural reference point, as is early-day Radiohead, particularly in the way io reference Anglo influences in an unmistakably American setting.
io also borrows a lot from the more progressive post-hardcore acts, although their impact is based on melody and musical dynamics. The band’s playing is wildly ambitious, with a strong passion for communicating their ideas to their audience, perfectly balancing the elusive with the approachable. At times, io overestimate their abilities, ending up slouching their feet in mediocre emo mud. But more often, they succeed in carrying their ideas across, making this one of the more eloquent debut discs in this vein of music.