A Day in Black and White - Notes (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

A Day in Black and White

Notes (2005)

Level Plane

After really sitting down with repeated listens for the album, I've come to a conclusion. Unless you've never heard A Day in Black & White previous to Notes, you have to approach it a very certain way. You must completely forget that this is their third release. Don't acknowledge the split with Black Castle, don't acknowledge My Heroes Have Always Killed Cowboys, and just start the band on a completely fresh and clean slate.

If you pretend they were never akin to screamo acts like City of Caterpillar, you'll have no qualms at all about digesting this new record, because it's a blast of D.C. post-punk greatness.

A Day in Black & White have just as much energy as ever, it's only now used in different ways. There are no screamed vocals to be found on this record, no epic instrumental passages; what's come in as a replacement are frenetic rhythms, tactfully delivered vocals, and methodical drumming. The band runs a very tight ship, as the chord progressions cascade loudly over Daniel Morse's vocals. His singing style is very deliberate and calculated, and has a much less prominent role this go-round than the instrumentation. The jagged riffing immediately establishes a nature where anything can happen in the music, and the rest of the band has to keep up the pace.

After the ambient noise of the album's first track, things are immediately set into motion by the discordant riffing and pounding drums of "New Energy," a track that exemplifies just that. The instrumental storm doesn't subside for the entire duration, if anything increasing in speed and power with every crash of the bass drum and every slinky bass line. Even when the pace is dramatically slowed, as with the following "A Literal Title," you can feel a great buildup of energy waiting to surge, while the lead guitar wails away over the top of some melodic undercurrents. The contrasts of melody and dissonant riffing work incredibly for the band, because at the base of everything, these songs are dependent on those rhythms. The vocals are perfectly suited for the music, but it starts with the instrumentation. And when even the slower tracks have a definite element of danger, you know a band is doing something correctly. As good as a lot of these tracks are, nothing quite touches "Ronald's Right," which barrels right into some sharply changing chord progressions that lead way into nothing but delicate chord strumming and the pitter-pattering of the snare, until the vocals slowly intensify, crashing back in to the music head over heels. The song goes through several extended stages in only 4-and-a-half-minute's time, finally ceasing under some beautiful harmonics.

No, this isn't the same A Day in Black & White it used to be, but their change has allowed for them to record quite an impressive post-punk record that stays true to D.C.'s storied past. Well done.