Artist: Blind Pilot
Album: And Then Like Lions
Label: ATO Records
Release Date: 08/12/2016
Portland, Oregon indie folk band Blind Pilot began as a duo of Israel Nebeker and Ryan Dobrowski. Together, the guys released their debut album, 3 Rounds And A Sound, in 2008 to chart-topping success and exposure on iTunes when a track off the record, “Go On, Say It” was chosen as its Single Of The Week. Three years later, the duo became a sextet and released their sophomore album, We Are The Tide, to more praise, most referencing the positive addition of new members, providing a fuller, more colorful sound to the band. Now, after five years, Blind Pilot is back with another vivid full-length record, And Then Like Lions, releasing on ATO Records on August 12th.
Once a gentle duo, the band now operates as a robust seven-member group, heavy with strings and percussion. Tingling with tiny indie influences but still entirely their own sound, And Then Like Lions blooms. From the first note on opening track “Umpqua Rushing,” the record is a flower, its petals unfurling softly and slowly at first, but quicker and with more urgency as each song passes. “Umpqua Rushing” begins with an unassuming rhythmic sweep. Lead singer Nebeker stays quiet, almost speaking at first until his vocals lift and dip like a leaf in the wind. A minute later, pulsing percussion joins in, rounding out the rest of the track with a sparkling arrangement beating powerfully in the foreground.
Later, “Packed Powder” tests the colors that orchestral sing-alongs create. Despite the rich imagery of the storytelling and psychedelic rhythms, the lyrics offer a look into both the bold ambition of our futures and the naive hope for something to believe in. Nebeker sings about different jobs with desperation in his voice, wailing “I started working at a small-town church/I thought it would make me a better man/Said the sins I had would fly away/As if the birds were in the palms of my own hands”. The band’s songwriting skills can also be found on “Which Side I’m On,” a quiet ballad unadorned by eclectic instrumentation, but rather simply stripped to bare bones acoustics at some points, accompanied only by harmony. At the chorus, an arrangement of instrumental camaraderie bursts onto the scene but does not steal it, as Nebeker admits “The world is not mine/It is the place where I am”.
Next is the twinkling poetry of “It Was Enough”, simple but intensified by sweet harmony and pitter pats of new rhythms. The melody is dreamy and hopeful, conjuring up a vision of a sunrise, whereas the end of the album begs a sunset. Last track “Like Lions” combines every element of Blind Pilot’s signature sound: encouraging vocals, full band build-ups, and tender songwriting, a conclusion so symbolic to the band that by the end of the record, the album has fully blossomed.
Together, the ten tracks of And Then Like Lions offer a humble cohesiveness that is the poster child for hope. Blind Pilot could be saying nothing and still draw desperate, unhinged emotion, but it is when they say everything that the heart and mind bleed with a type of beauty we might not ever have known before were it not for the orchestral explosions of color they have so effortlessly mastered.