Sybris - Sybris (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Sybris (2005)


If I were to be one who judged an album solely on its cover art, Sybris' self-titled effort would leave me in quite an interesting position. To say the layout is simple isn't truly doing it justice. The art consists of a reddish brown, crayon drawn box, with a crudely designed reddish brown wolf jumping at an even more crudely designed reddish brown bird, with the word Sybris written underneath in cursive. This layout could very well lead one to believe this album as being very minimalist, and that couldn't be further from truth.

Beautiful female vocals courtesy of Angel Mullenhour and the soaring melodies provided by herself and the rest of the band make for the majority of the album's arrangements. While mostly a low-key effort, the band has their share of opportunities to really let their instruments do the talking for them, and such is the case in "Blame It On The Baseball." Reminiscent of the brooding nature shown in Explosions In The Sky's "A Poor Man's Memory," the song careens through an ever increasing volume until the dam finally breaks, releasing the intense, emotion evoking guitar and drum combination. It very well could be considered the album's shining moment.

I don't want to say that the loudness of that song's conclusion is a rare occurrence, but it's certainly a lot more downplayed than some other, quieter elements of the album. Regardless, Mullenhour keeps a steady flow and a solid voice that the other four musicians can quietly build off of. I'd really like to see more of the band's dynamic half of the personality come out, as it appears in "Blame," and as it appears in the following song, "Hobo Detail Shop," where everything is catered around the rhythms of the guitar work. This is not to discount her versatility, however, which keeps everything in check during what could be some of the album's more boring moments. Just when Mullenhour's voice trails off, and things seem to be fading out, those guitars come back into the fray and manage to pique interest once again. It's nothing all that abstract, because that category is rooted in the bands lyrics.

You were born with a valentine mouth, a real sound / When no one was looking, you snuck in and listened / They're all in the kitchen, she's not in the kitchen / You know yours is a nametag and mine is a curse.
It's hard to pull any sort of meaning from those words, though I'm sure some greater meaning was intended than what I was able to get from it. It's not the words on this album that matter, though, more the way they're delivered. It's what gives this release style as well as substance that stands above it all, and it's not outlandish, but I cannot honestly say I've heard anything released so far this year that sounds quite like it. Interesting arrangements and solid delivery propel these songs past what could very easily be their limitations. And despite the minimalist leanings of the cover art and liner notes, as they clearly did not have the 164 crayon box, this is a formidable record from a band who packs a punch.