Please forgive me for being a hypocrite.
It's obviously the "thing to do" around the .Org lately: Giving albums that have been sitting on shelves for about two weeks -- tops -- perfect or close-to-perfect scores. I was growing weary of defending and justifying the amount of yellow stars my fellow staff has been handing out seemingly generously -- until Castevet's Summer Fences flooded my ear canals with their perfect blend of all the greatest moments from the `90s emo/indie/post-hardcore scenes. I finally get it -- an album doesn't always need longevity as evidence; it's sometimes so painfully obvious within its compositions and craftsmanship.
When Castevet released their demo, I Know What a Lion Is, last year, I was immediately sold on their prowess and maturity. I even went as far saying it was almost as good as Polar Bear Club's demo. Almost. Their debut,Summer Fences (which includes demo tracks) bares a reverberating semblance to to the aural beauty of American Football: sometimes building on a simple, repetitious pull-off riff, while sometimes the notes are in a vibrant conversation, cascading through layers of different colors and emotions. They're vocally reminiscent to post-hardcore geniuses Small Brown Bike, but are organized and tucked back in such a way where the vocals are merely a component to the big picture -- like it's an instrument. Not in that pretentious yet goofy Ponytail way, mind you.
Opening with "Between Berwyn and Bryn Mawr," like their demo, is the band at full potential. With distinguishable verses and gruff screams that lead to speedy riffs of restraint, they choose to expose themselves early on. Every track that follows is breaking down and experimenting with the formula introduced by the intro track. On one end, you have "Plays One on TV," which is upbeat and more Cap'n Jazz-esque and on the other you have "Beating High Schoolers at Arcade Games" that has a more relaxed, instrumental feel; the band will choose to focus on certain aspects in their songwriting throughout to sculpt an album that must be listened to completely through and with an open, analytical mind. On paper, that's an intimidating feat -- eight songs, with a run time of 45:40 and only two songs below five minutes -- but it's actually an easy listen. Even though I'd really like to see what this band can do with a shorter frame of time, the songs hardly overstay their welcome and just breeze by with their slightly atmospheric tendencies. All I know is, Summer Fences replaces American Football's self-titled as my go-to summertime bike-riding music.
Wow, I really should have written a lot more for such a hefty score, but it's kind of a "you have to hear it for yourself." Especially at a time where there's like five `90s emo throwback bands in each scene, Castevet blow the rest away with a sickeningly thorough knowledge of the genre on this masterpiece. I know I've been accused of hyperbole in the past, and while I really stand by everything I say, I hope it doesn't turn you off from buying this record. It's been a little more than half a year and Summer Fences is the first album I'd consider a "must-have" for 2009.