Thursday, 3 October 2013

The Letter Yellow - Walking Down The Streets

Album review by

Following its North American release last year, Brooklyn trio The Letter Yellow spread their wings and gave their debut album 'Walking Down The Streets' a European release last month. In terms of not making sense, The Letter Yellow is a good band name, but is easily trumped by Mogwai's track 'The Sun Smells Too Loud' in terms of confusion. You probably won't find the Scottish noise-merchants mentioned in many (or any) other reviews of this album, but they actually make a good reference for describing what this band don't sound like. Main songwriter Randy Bergida favours more traditional indie-type guitar songs, with the odd other influence creeping in on occasion. The album title is relevant, as the album acts as a musical tour of some of New York's streets. Not the famous landmarks, but those that Bergida himself regularly travels along.

To give a quick summary of these dozen tracks, it could probably be said that the writing, recording, production and so on is all done to a decent standard, but without being overly spectacular. There are no stop-you-in-your-tracks moments, this is more an easy to listen to collection of thoughtful compositions that don't do a lot wrong, but don't dazzle either. If guitar-pop is your thing you may well fall for this record, if it's not then you're likely to be left cold. One word of warning though; don't give up if this band don't grab you on first listen. Songs like 'Changed', the lovely 'Hooray He's Not Dead' and 'In The Sun Making Waves' are all real growers, and the jangly 'It's Monday and I'm Dreaming' touches on British, '80s indiepop. In fact the nature of the subject matter paints this band as an NYC version of Glasgow's Belle & Sebastian, although the musical styles differ. The sentiment of, say, 'Out On The Streets' is much the same.

Some tracks are quite reflective, a natural reaction to writing about places or people who are a major part of your life. It's this aspect that makes 'Hold Me Steady', a traditional Americana/indie song, more than just a mid-tempo listen, much like 'Window' and 'Southern Bound'. It has feeling and this makes it work so much better. A few songs fall a bit flat; nice enough but probably won't linger long in the memory. 'I Can't Get A' is (ironically) a little pedestrian; we get a touch of funk on 'Hope Street' but again it's not a highlight despite being well made, and 'I Got You' is a bit close to the AOR market to leave any real impression. The rock 'n roll throwback of '14 Bar Blues' is an odd inclusion, and regardless of the quality of the song, it sticks out like a sore thumb. 'Walking Down The Streets' is a competent record with some good writing, however you can't help but feel it would have benefited from a little trimming to make a more successful mini-album instead. There is promise to be found here though.

The Letter Yellow's website

Stream or buy the album

Catch them live:

THU 03 OCT Unknown venue, Middletown, CT, US
FRI 11 OCT Littlefield, Brooklyn, NY, US

For more news, reviews and downloads follow The Sound Of Confusion on Facebook or Twitter