In Letters - An Exit Through the Clouds (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

In Letters

An Exit Through the Clouds (2006)


In Letters is a Minneapolis quartet that became a trio, recorded this album, then became a quartet once again. Engrossing tale, I know. The core of drummer Brian Boesen, guitarist/vocalist Skyler Moore and bassist Joel Morris have been playing together for three years now, and they trudged on after the loss of their original lead guitarist and recorded An Exit Through the Clouds. They now seem to have found a replacement (according to their website) with Nick Peatznick. Is their debut album any more engaging than their backstory? Unfortunately, it isn't.

After the instrumental opener, "Elbows In" starts things off Thursday-style, with its Cure-influenced clean verses exploding into a chorus that sounds familiar (maybe "How Long Is the Night" because I keep adding in a shriek of "I'll never even close my eyes!" after each vocal line). It's got a decent emo hook, but nothing to write home about. They claim a lot of odd influences but just come off sounding like Sunny Day Real Estate -- which the band would agree with -- a sound I found especially in "Euphoria." There are worse bands to sound like, but it's such a tired style at this point.

The musicianship is there, for the most part. The over-extended "Bends Tomorrows" does showcase some sweet basslines though it gets away from Morris at its most intricate point with some ornamentation that seems to go out of key. Boesen's drumming style seems to be against putting two identical measures in a song -- what I mean is that he is over-playing, embellishing and putting fills in just about every nook and cranny, something I myself used to be guilty of as a fellow drummer. The skill is definitely there, but even for this style of music it's a bit much. The vocals and guitar work meet the requirements for the genre -- they are solid, yet they don't stand out.

"Black Keys" is actually one of the more intriguing tracks due to Lily Pappas's guest vocals, which are angelic but not overbearing. The subdued guitar, backing vocals and thudding drum machine are a decent enough backup for her. The song never gets loud, which can be difficult for bands like this to resist, so kudos on that. I'm also glad they don't succumb to a whole lot of screaming, but they just couldn't help themselves on the tail end of "Natural." These guys are definitely more creative than a lot of bands like this, managing to avoid at least some of the formulaic aspects.

For a self-released album, An Exit Through the Clouds is well done, from the booklet to the sound. The production has full guitars and booming drums, with just enough effects spread throughout. The songwriting sounds good as it hits my eardrums, but then bounces off and is forgotten afterwards. These hard-working boys will be hitting the road soon and maybe on their journey they will start to discover their own voice, because this style is toast.