music, reviews

Falling Up – Captiva (3.5 of 5 stars)

(Originally posted at AbsolutePunk.net)
Falling Up entered the music scene three years ago as a bit of an eclectic mystery, sporting predictable pop punk layered with piano melodies, synth tones, and nu metal influences occasionally fused with a bit of rapcore. 2005’s Dawn Escapes showed the band continuing to refine their sound, shining strongest through the double keyboard talents of Adam Taylor and lead vocalist Jessy Ribordy for a beautiful, ambient combination of raw piano and electronic grooves.

After surviving the early, experimental years of the alternative/pop punk scene and building a loyal fanbase that has given the band over 200,000 records in career sales (including last year’s unnecessary remix album), Captiva shows Falling Up gracefully abandoning the random rap attempts and metal influences of earlier days, maturing into a smooth keys-based alternative act.

“A Guide to Marine Life” kicks off the album with a soft ambient noise that is immediately mapped with piano chords and Jessy’s vocals on a percussive backbeat. By the time the guitars fully kick in on the chorus, we know what to expect from this album: catchy music that leans pop punk but doesn’t feel repetitive thanks to the smartly layered vocal harmonies and variety of keyboard sounds.

That’s not to say that, having found their niche, Falling Up is forsaking their creative streak. The intro to “Helicopters” is a successful experiment in 7/4 time. And the last sixty seconds of “Drago or the Dragons” trace a synthetically layered hip-hop groove that leaves one wanting more. The only predictably boring track is “Maps,” a reflection of Falling Up’s association with BEC, the same label that squeezed Kutless’s raw rock into contemporary Christian radio-friendly singles for greater album sales. Even so, “Maps” is still catchy enough that most fans won’t mind.

Citing the respected songwriting of Christian heavy rock act Project 86’s Andrew Schwab as an influence (although drawing similarities seems sketchy at best), Jessy’s lyrics have become as metaphoric as his curious song titles, offering a glimmer of hope and rescue through the troubles of life. “A Guide to Marine Life” cries, “Float by open windows, what a shipwreck, what a shipwreck / …When I’m lost, when I’m lost / There’s no meaning / Call it this, call it this /Spinning sideways and never stops / Lines in the sky calling me out, calling me out

Although occasionally the metaphors are too thick for their own good. In “Drago or the Dragons” he sings, “This mathematic sunset starts a neck to sink her teeth into again / A late aesthetic exit is impossible but not from rafter sins.” Listeners are less likely to discern hidden meanings from vast lyrics and phrased track titles, and more likely to simply enjoy the music.

There aren’t really any songs that stand out here, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This is simply a fun album to listen to ~ twelve solid tracks with excellent production. If you’re hungry for creative pop punk with clever ambient doses of piano, keys, and synth, Captiva is a forty-six minute snack that you won’t regret.

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