Not everything is in a name, and Oklahoma’s The Uglysuit is fine proof of this. Behind their quirky moniker (which comes from a love of second-hand clothes) is a group searching for its place in the sprawling arena of Midwestern indie rock.
The Uglysuit, a sextet all in their early 20s, are a talented bunch of musicians who inject in their music, whether happy or sad, small or epic, a certain yearning for something more. This self-titled debut is about trying to make sense of life – through spirituality, travels and surroundings.
The band’s journey starts with a pensive song, Brownblue’s Passing. Singer Israel Hindman notices the sky opening up above him, the hills flying by beside him, and the Earth coming alive below him.
The imagery is purposefully obscure and could represent anything from the apocalypse to the death of a pet, but by the time the band reach the end of a three-minute instrumental jam with the soothing choral refrain, “All this art so beautiful, beautiful, how beautiful,” the sorrow’s gone, and the understanding starts to kick in. The Uglysuit give the listener an instrumental break, a space to breathe and think about what happened, before moving on.
The band’s message of hope is represented partially (however corny it may sound) by a repeated mention of “flying”. On Chicago Hindman sings, “And where did I begin to drift off to, that I think that I could fly.” He tries to take his mind to Chicago, as if a different place will have all the answers to his problems. It’s the band’s first single, and some may hate it for its glossy pop sound, but the sentiment behind the lyrics adds to the sheer beauty of the sounds to bring out a nearly perfect song.
The energy, beauty and soul searching continues across the rest of the album. Brad’s House becomes a five-minute adventure with all the ebbs and flows, pushes and pulls of everyday life. Adding to the intense imagery found throughout the album, here the sky explodes as travellers stand beside a highway that leads into a city. They are “looking for a way out” and want to make “a way for words to fly.”
The Uglysuit are certainly taking a page out of Bright Eyes‘ playbook with their Midwest, indie-Americana sound, but their songs are more controlled and more polished. Hindman summons Oberst’s voice but in more of a hesitant, hopeful incarnation rather than a shaky, wounded one.
They allow the upsets and heartbreaks of the world to get into their music, but they counter these troubles effectively with a ray of sunshine, a glimmer of hope for their listeners.
Longer tracks like …And We Become Sunshine, Everyone Now Has A Smile, and Happy Yellow Rainbow have shifting sections that lay out a short trip for the listener, but all the different sections eventually dovetail, building into resounding refrains that infect the songs with an undying sense of hope.
This is an excellent debut, but, in a way, that’s kind of unsettling. The Uglysuit have done everything right the first time around, so what more can be done on future releases? It’s good to remember though that there’s always hope, which sometimes goes a long way.