Gates is one of the few groups that is doing it right these days. The New Jersey indie rockers put their hearts and souls into their music and they are adamant about being the masters of their futures. They have financed themselves since day one, and their dedication and passion come through on every single track they have written. Their 2011 EP, The Sun Will Rise and Lead Us Home, is a phenomenal introduction to the band’s unique blend of upbeat indie rock infused with spritzy guitar parts and invigoratingly honest vocals, anchored by a steady rhythm section and skilful song-writing. It made an immediate impression on all of us here at Type In Stereo, and it set very high expectations for their 2012 follow-up EP, You Are All You Have Left To Fear. They did not disappoint. Not even a little bit. This EP is like an adrenaline fuelled brother to their first outing. It takes the bright and nuanced sound they came in on and turned up the energy to produce a familiar but evolved sound. In fact, the two EPs play out like two sounds of the same sonic coin – one half is clean and sparkles with a notable sheen, while the other is battered and scarred but no less beautiful for its rough texture.
The opening track, ‘They See Only Shadows,’ is rife with the twinkling guitar parts and softly sweet melodies of old, but it boils over with emotion in ways previously unheard of from the band. The phrases are beautifully constructed, and the careful use of layered guitars and slightly strained vocals creates a sweet nostalgic sound akin to early Jimmy Eat World, but they end on notes of distress as distorted chords and dissonance sow seeds of discontent amongst the otherwise serene sounds of the track. The build up and climax from 2:35 to 3:25 is truly remarkable in its ability to tinge their laid back and atmospheric sound with raw aggression, and the volume swells that carry the song to its conclusion paint the picture of a sea calming down after a storm.
The aggression returns in ‘Like This You Mean.’ The guitars are intricate to the point of absurdity without ever sounding convoluted. They ebb and flow with grace and explode into powerful walls of sound as the song progresses. The lead vocals are palpably afflicted and they mirror the urgency portrayed by the instrumentals as heart-wrenching screams are backed by fast-paced picking and syncopated drums. The close of this song will get your heart racing; I guarantee it.
And just like that, the sun rises and everything is beautiful again. ‘Cast in the Pattern’ features lightly frolicking guitar lines and strong vocal harmonies that carry you away and make you feel hopeful again. What makes this song so good is that despite its upbeat tone, it flows out of the previous track so naturally that it could easily be considered a second act. This album is cohesive, ladies and gentleman. Very cohesive.
The next track, ‘To Those Who Fell…,’ is an instrumental introduction to track five, ‘…And To Those Who Carry On.’ The duo opens with chipper and bubbly guitars accompanied by the clicking of drum sticks. As bass and heavier percussion enter the mix, the guitars switch modes to produce a feeling of depth and space, which eventually gives way to a solitary guitar playing an incredible dancing lead line. As the second half of the pair kicks in, passionate vocals and energetic, almost sporadic drums take over. They carry the song towards group vocals and a silence that hits harder than any sound could have produced.
The album comes to a strong close with ‘The Sound of Letting Go.’ Off-beat drumming and harried vocals set the stage for a rocking track defined by angst, tempered with subtlety. At about the half-way mark, distanced vocals and stripped down instrumentals create a personal and diminished soundscape that acts as a powerful contrast to its conclusion, which features tortured lead vocals backed by group vocals singing out “This is everything that you deserve.” It is a frenzied ending to an emotionally engaging album.
With two well-crafted and brilliantly executed EPs under their belts, the future looks bright for Gates. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Rating: Gates is back and there is nothing to fear.