Album Reviews

Thousands – The Sound Of Everything

(Bella Union) UK release date: 14 March 2011

Thousands’ claim to fame is that they were recommended to Bella Union as friends of Fleet Foxes, at the behest of guitarist Skyler Skjelset, who saw promise in the band comprised of musicians Kristian Garrard and Luke Bergman. So just as Fleet Foxes prepare to promote their highly anticipated second album Helplessness Blues, Thousands take their own first timid footsteps into the music industry. They’re not a band daunted by the vastness of the big wild world; after beginning to record their debut album at home, they grew discontented with the inherent restrictions of four walls and opted to record the album in single takes in a variety of outdoor settings across the Pacific Northwest of America.

Much like the guys who were semi-responsible for their Bella Union break, Thousands create music which is fashionably folk oriented. But where Fleet Foxes were the finished and very well polished article by the time of their debut release, The Sound Of Everything is much more the story of a band discovering their sound. The recordings, due to the varying locations and being outdoors, are very raw and sometimes make the album seem like a collection of individual songs rather than an a fully formed LP. However, the minimalist production quality breathes a refreshing, breezy life into the songs. Had there been countless layered harmonies and flamboyant instrumentation overdubs the songs would have undoubtedly lost their sweetness. Tracks such as album opener MTSES III owe much to Simon And Garfunkel‘s stripped back, endearing style.

Being a purely acoustic duo, the danger is that, if a little one-paced, the album feels too drawn out. Luckily, there is enough variation to keep listeners preoccupied for the most part and, more importantly, craving multiple listens. Often the album consists of Kristian and Luke singing delicate harmonies over finger-picked acoustic guitars, but they have the ability to shift the tempo and adopt a high energy indie-folk aesthetic similar to that of contemporary artists like Grizzly Bear and The Dodos on songs such as Red Seagulls.

The varied instrumentation also helps the album’s flow. The title track and centrepiece consists of a heavily reverberated vocal performance on top of a sombrely played harmonium. Sun Cuz is the album’s jubilant highlight and Thousands’ most obvious Simon And Garfunkel homage. Doing what they do best, they sing in unison over the top of cheery, delightfully plucked guitar chords.

The album probably could have benefitted from having a few minutes shaved off its running time, with some of the songs which run into four-minute territory sometimes outstaying their welcome. Nevertheless, this is a beautifully breezy debut which radiates the sunlight which it was made to be listened in. The Seattle duo rejected the solitary confinement of indoors to record it; to make the most of this album, treat it with similar respect and enjoy it in its natural environment.

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Thousands – The Sound Of Everything