Until yesterday, I really didn't know much about Dead Heart Bloom other than that they'd garnered a great deal of press and that their self-titled debut album and second effort, Chelsea Diaries, had both been nominated for a Shortlist Prize. There are so many bands flying around in the cloud of indie hype these days that they all just sort of blur together after a while. Was that Modest Mouse or Animal Collective that just whizzed by my head? Is that giant blimp-like thingee up there Radiohead or just a shoal of the hundred-thousand bands trying to sound like Radiohead these days? A unique identity--something to make your music stand out in the overpopulated sea of music--is a difficult thing to create these days, and the best many artists can hope for is to receive a favorable comparison to the "better known acts" they're inspired by.
Dead Heart Bloom is not one of those unique acts that set a standard for hundreds of followers...which is rather a shame, because their music is incredibly good and does not deserve to be lost in the shuffle. Fortunately, with their latest free EP, Fall In, available as pristine 320kbps mp3s from their website (as well as on CD), the band takes a major step forward in getting their music Out There to be heard.
Despite their somewhat emo-sounding name, Dead Heart Bloom is more like the bastard son of Mazzy Star and English dream-pop band Lowgold. Formed in 2005 by singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Boris Skalsky (who pretty much is the band, along with a roster of guest musicians), Dead Heart Bloom produces very pretty, melancholy rock that is both laidback and energetic, somber and driving: a difficult balancing act that Skalsky deftly manages.
Fall In--one of several EPs the band has scheduled for release this year--is only five tracks, but those are five very memorable tracks. Skalsky's soft voice is almost lost in the mix sometimes, but always shines through the lush waves of guitar and piano. The music is very atmospheric and often understated, but the melodies carry the tracks and are just catchy enough to be memorable. "Is This The Way?" starts the EP off with a strong power-pop statement emphasized by its jangly acoustic guitars and electrifying guitar leads. "Come Back" has a distinct Jeff Buckley feel, but is primarily driven by its spacey guitar washes. "Nothing Will Break Me Now" is the highlight of the EP, though, with its delicate lyrics and multilayered vocals, its lonely electric guitars, straightforward acoustic guitar, and drifting cellos (masterful use of panning there, something that's almost unheard-of in modern rock). "Our Last Martyr" cranks up the jam again with a punchy beat and bouncy rhythm backing up Skalsky's beautiful voice and exquisite synth leads. The EP on a relaxing note with the mournful, string-heavy "Here We Are," a gorgeous song whose melody, much like that of Fountains of Wayne's "Prom Theme," will send chills up your spine. The song also begins with some of the most haunting lyrics I've heard: "Well, here we are. It's three a.m. and we're still waiting for the sun."
Dead Heart Bloom is definitely a band to check out if you, like me, love dreamy, lovely music that evokes visions of sad late-night drives. Their music is not jaw-droppingly unique, but Skalsky et. al. achieve exactly what they're aiming for. The good press they've drawn over the last year or so is honestly warranted. And with Fall In available for free, you almost owe it to yourself to download the EP and check it out. Chances are you'll be hooked from the first chord.
Dead Heart Bloom has one tour date listed: July 16, 2006, at The Living Room in New York, NY. As much as I despise New York City, there's a pretty damn good chance I'm going to be there for the show.