Umbrellas - Illuminare (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Illuminare (2006)

The Miltia Group

Back in 2002, my wife (then-girlfriend) was given a CD to review by our friend and fellow Augustana College student (and Punknews alum) Scott Heisel. It was by a band called the Lyndsay Diaries. It sucked. Scott knew it sucked. And boy did Cara and I laugh and laugh as we listened to it. It was a blatant Dashboard Confessional wannabe and without anything in the songs to redeem it, and it was so over-the-top sensitive and emo that Cara had no choice but to bash it in her review. We later ended up seeing him live in Rockford, Illinois because he played with the Felix Culpa and Somerset and we were forced to go outside when the guy played because we felt bad for him. Not as easy to laugh that time, it was just sad. Anyway, the Lyndsay Diaries was just that one guy: Scott Windsor. When I received a package of CDs from Brian this summer and was looking through the materials I saw a guy that looked familiar. It was Windsor, fronting a new band called Umbrellas. I threw up in my mouth a little.

So, the Dashboard thing didn't quite work out for him, so what's the next craze that will make the indie girls swoon? Let's see…people really dug that Postal Service album...the Killers and the Bravery hit it big the last two years…I've got it! Indie dance pop! Plenty of electronics! Sensitive lyrics! It's all here, and it's not all good. Really, the electronic-tinged full band helps out Windsor a lot, and the music's not bad. But man, the lyrics really can't be covered up and his voice is just way too pretty for a dude. "I can't sleep at night, I'm still thinking of you / When you're away I'm blue" starts "Thinking of You" and perfectly illustrates that Windsor is drawing from the same shallow lyrical well of blunt emo phrases; later in the song he says "All night long I laid in the grass / And listened with headphones to the saddest songs." But wait, there's more in "Angel or Demon:" "You could be an angel, or maybe a demon / I'm not sure yet ‘cause we just met / Your white dress contradicts your black hair / You probably dyed it, I don't really care."

Like I stated before, the music is not half bad. The lead synth line on "Again & Again" and the medium-paced disco beat (with semi-cheesy New Order style programmed percussion) make it a passable song, and the chorus melody is stuck in my head I must admit. "Idle and Waiting" slows things down with a cool Pedro the Lion feel and I want to hear Dave Bazan's low voice but of course I get Windsor's creepily ‘angelic' croon instead. Back to "Angel or Demon" -- it has a nice bouncy beat and light, funky guitar, and an odd frantic trilled synth part in the bridge that somehow works, but those lyrics... He also rhymes ‘back' with ‘back' somewhere in there. "Boston White" has a pretty rockin' chorus and "Ships" has a nice slow groove. The acoustic "Tests on My Heart" is the only music I don't care for because it's back more in the Lyndsay Diaries direction, yet more finger-picked. The best part of the song, an old west saloon-style piano solo, makes a jarring entrance and disappears quickly, completely out of place.

If someone else took over the lyrical and vocal duties in Umbrellas, I could give this maybe a 6 (three stars) or even a bit higher. Yes, the music fits into current trends, but the effects and production are all top-notch and I can't help but like it (after all, I not-so-secretly like the Killers). However, with Windsor at the helm, Illuminare has an annoyance factor that can't be ignored and it pretty much kills the album. Maybe I'm letting the guy's past band influence the current one too much, and perhaps if you never had the displeasure of hearing the Lyndsay Diaries you can tolerate this. But probably not.