Kudos goes to 1090 Club for being from Montana and deciding to name their album S.O.S. with a picture of a sailboat on the cover. Nine times out of 10 when a CD arrives in my hands with a name I don't recognize and a promo sheet hyping them as a blend between some of my favorite bands, I usually get either really excited or preemptively disappointed.
With 1090 Club, it's a good thing I didn't let my preemptive disappointment stop me from throwing their debut album, S.O.S., into my CD player -- because I kept it there for days. Mind you, I'm not really home all that often, so days in my CD player don't always amount to much play -- but you know what I'm trying to say here.
S.O.S. is a magnificent debut effort. Through it, 1090 Club channel some of today's most stand-out post-punk indie bands such as Murder by Death, Minus the Bear, and Death Cab for Cutie, all the while forming a sound distinctly their own. What is probably the strongest contributor to their sound is the band's collection of instruments which consists of guitar, drums, piano, and violin. As well, the four members share vocal duties on nearly every song and for the most part contribute equally throughout. This kind of vocal assembly comes with some disastrous risk from complicated-for-complicated sake syndrome. Instead, 1090 Club use it to give their songs a huge birth of life, and often make their more convoluted musical moments come across almost playfully.
Now I'm not sure what 1090 Club sounded like before they hit the studio, but one can't help but take notice of S.O.S.'s production and mixing credits. Alex Newport -- who has mixed for At the Drive-In, the Mars Volta and the Locust -- contributed, and production was handled by Steve Fisk, who has worked with Minus the Bear. In the end, S.O.S. comes off sounding far more textured than any band's debut effort deserves to. Still, they don't at all sound overproduced.
S.O.S. is by and large a mood-swing teetering back and forth (fans of Murder by Death would be familiar with songs like "Gypsea"). Other times, songs such as the opener "Hello" should only be listened to while sitting on a dock on a hot summer day with a delicious beverage in hand. Unfortunately this emotional insecurity tended to rub me the wrong way sometimes. At only half an hour, S.O.S. doesn't have enough time to spend exploring the range feeling 1090 Club seem to be aiming for. This puts the album in a tight spot. On one hand its length permits S.O.S. to be an album with a lot going on without the slightest hint of the band trying to cram too much in or trap listeners for too long. It remains fresh throughout and offers little filler (with an exception being "Second Hander"). However, for a band that writes as well and as varied as 1090 Club, they just aren't able to say everything they want to with enough articulation to make the impact that's potentially there.