The Helio Sequence - Keep Your Eyes Ahead (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Helio Sequence

Keep Your Eyes Ahead (2008)

Sub Pop

The Helio Sequence's Keep Your Eyes Ahead was not completed without some hardships. Singer Brandon Summers mutilated his voice after six months of touring in 2004 and through a retooling of his lifestyle and vocal lessons managed to regain it. Recording commenced in September 2005, but wasn't completed until this past summer. However, despite Summers rearing back the harshness of his vocals and the album's creation spread out over such a long timespan, Keep Your Eyes Ahead retains a vast, lushly rewarding approach and remarkable cohesiveness and clarity.

Investing even more in atmosphere than the band's most recent albums (2004's Love and Distance, 2001's Young Effectuals), opener "Lately" is a fairly accurate foreshadowing of Keep Your Eyes Ahead. Summers' voice is wavering and Dylan-esque as ever, and it wanders acutely over shimmering guitars and a steady percussive rhythm. It's not a complete overhaul for the band, but the newer direction is bizarrely reminiscent of labelmates Band of Horses (artwork that bears mild similarities to the tones, color and overall feeling of Cease to Begin sure doesn't hurt). The shuffling title track "Keep Your Eyes Ahead" is what might happen if Interpol's Paul Banks dropped his Curtis aping and injected some more life into his voice. Moreover, Summers' delivery during "The Captive Mind" (and to a lesser extent, "Back to This" and "Hallelujah") is a bit more uptempo and rambling, coming off like the moments where the similarly minded Colour Revolt channel THS's one-time tourmates (and drummer/keyboardist Benjamin Weikel's former band) Modest Mouse.

Speaking of Weikel, his electronic integration is still present, but in lighter, airy ways that -- more often than not -- complement the songs rather than make up the bulk of its sound. Again, it's much more about atmosphere this time around, though there are the occasional exceptions. The flittering "You Can Come to Me" exudes a goofy weariness and seems to derive equally from melodious echoes, acoustic picking and a platter of programmed sounds that partially sound like a Mario brother making an abrupt stop.

Of final note is the fuzzy folk stomp of closer "No Regrets," which busts out the harmonica and quickly trades the album's blue waves for brown floorboards and an upbeat smile to take things out at after the album's crisp 37 minutes have passed.

Like most Sub Pop albums categorized vaguely as indie pop or rock, Keep Your Eyes Ahead is a pleasant and enjoyable release that, while arguably inoffensive through and through, tinkers with its climate just enough to offer intermittent surprises amidst its casual brooding on intra-relationship static.

Keep Your Eyes Ahead

The first half of Keep Your Eyes Ahead