Release Date: May 19, 2015
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Dream Pop, Noise Pop, Neo-Psychedelia
A veteran band releasing a self-titled album is one of the more direct statements of purpose in rock music: This new sound, this is our identity now. Despite an impressive run of albums, sometimes a signature style can come to define a band’s own boundaries. Some bands remain there, some mistakenly take on too-drastic changes, others recapture their essence via expansion and experimentation.
Negotiations was painful, a record from the heart and for the heart. The Helio Sequence's last release was borne from a difficult season of necessary introspection for Brandon Summers. Despite the album's acclaim, it's not surprising he wasn't keen on repeating the creative process..
The Helio Sequence -- Brandon Summers on guitar and vocals and Benjamin Weikel on keyboards and percussion -- supposedly wrote and cut the basic tracks for their self-titled sixth album as part of a friendly contest in which they sought to see how many songs they could crank out in a month. One can certainly hear the spontaneity in 2015's The Helio Sequence, which features ten songs that are spare and sleek, boasting streamlined melodies and echoing guitars and clouds of keyboards that hover over Weikel's insistent rhythms as Summers sings with a measured force that suggests his raspy period is a thing of the past. Much of the time, The Helio Sequence sounds like an experiment in organic electronic pop, with the rigid drum patterns setting the pulse, keys establishing the melodies, and the rest of the instruments serving as texture, though the warmth of Summers' vocals takes some of the chill off tunes like "Battle Lines" and "Upward Mobility," and the duo's pop sensibilities shine through on "Inconsequential Ties" and "Seven Hours.
“I’m looking for a new direction,” Brandon Summers croons on “Battle Lines”, the opener to the new self-titled album from Oregon indie pop duo The Helio Sequence. That seeking spirit reflects the inspiration for the album as well: The duo’s friends had been playing the “20-song game,” where participants recorded 20 complete songs in a day. That “first thought, best thought” approach gives The Helio Sequence some of Summers and Benjamin Weikel’s most in-the-moment zeal, and the breezy, layered psychedelia smears by like a summer afternoon through a speeding car window.
The Upshot: Skipping across the decades, influence-wise, the Sub Pop darlings still manage to keep its pop smarts fresh. “I’m looking for a new direction” sings Brandon Summers on opener “Battle Lines”, which is an atmospheric track that has its pop sensibilities informed by the ‘80s with a 2015 spin. The album cover is the biggest hint that something has changed for the band with this latest release.