Givers are a five-piece band from Lafayette, Louisiana. In 2011, the band released their debut album In Light. The tracks were coupled with acoustic and afro-pop styling’s and immediately grabbed my attention upon its release. While they were not as big as Vampire Weekend or the Dirty Projectors, I believed that they had the same potential if they continued to churn out more gems like “Up Up Up” and “Ceiling of Plankton”.
Givers possessed a unique musicality. What the band aimed for isn’t different from many indie rock bands from the late 2000’s: they wanted to create catchy tunes, danceable rhythms and meaningful lyrics that one can relate to. The difference is that Givers aimed for these goals with a complexity that these other indie bands simply do not have; members from Givers have performed in zydeco, jazz and Cajun bands in the past.
However, outside of the tour upon the release of that album, the band fell off everyone’s radar for a number of years. While I continued to listen to the group’s debut album, I always wondered “What ever happened to Givers?”
Fast forward to this November where the band has (finally) released their sophomore album, New Kingdom.
What is abundantly clear on first listen of the album is the band’s continued attention to detail. It is clear Givers spent a good length of time on many of the songs in making them as sonically tight as possible. The track “Shaky but True” demonstrates the band’s ability to provide multiple layers of instrumentation without the song’s sounding overly chaotic.
The second conspicuous point is the greater abundance of synthesizers and effects on this album compared to In Light. As a major fan of their debut album, I was not overwhelmed with this switch in timbre from the band.
I can’t help but feel that Givers gave up on a good thing. Instead of exploring the greater acoustic elements that the band had performed so well previously, they, like many indie rock bands, have geared their efforts towards synthesizers to inspire their song-writing. While I cannot blame Givers for making the more populist decision (many of these tracks could fit on your local Top 40), their acoustic aesthetic of light ukulele strumming and afro-pop were abandoned too abruptly.
For instance, the track “Wishing Well” has a robotic introduction of pure synthesizers, which sounds more like the band goofing off in the studio than composing music. The song then kicks in with a new group of synthesizers, but this still doesn’t readily evoke any great reactions. On top of the problems of over-abundant synth, the song’s structure itself lacks a coherent fluidity to it, with different sections, verses, and lead vocals appearing in the span of its five minutes. While normally I am all for changing sections and a unique song structure, “Wishing Well” is too all over the place for me to find a groove.
However, this isn’t to take away from the album’s listening experience. The song “Remember” demonstrates that while this is a new direction for the band, they are capable of developing electro-jams just as well as any other electronic act out there. If the band wishes to sound like Odesza, they may possess that ability.
But overall, there isn’t enough to keep me from listening to this album again and again. The “Intro” to the album is a completely unnecessary 62 seconds to an already long-feeling album. Likewise, the track “Lightning” starts off great with a melodic electric guitar, but is then immediately compromised moments later when a bombardment of unnecessary delay effects and airy synthesizers are thrown into the fray.
New Kingdom does have good tracks; however, I strongly question the direction that this once terrific indie-pop band is heading. Give it a listen, but don’t expect to enjoy the whole journey.