The Constellation Branch - The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass... (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Constellation Branch

The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass... (2008)


The Constellation Branch do a style of progressive emo/indie rock that stakes out a lush-sounding sense of well-conceived territory, but it's one that doesn't always compel as forcefully as it should.

Without even doing perfunctory background, The Dream Life, The Real Life, The Empty Glass... appears conceptual, but it's hard to say what the storyline might be. Either way, it's the music and various layers that make the focal point here and it's often too blurry to make out.

Musically, any comparisons would have to be at least a little vague, too. Maybe there are trace similarities to mid-era mewithoutYou, with a shaky vocal performance in "The Real Life (American Earth)" and a sudden moment where the band transitions to a suddenly sort of joyous sing-song approach. More gravelly, darker screams are set against the background, though. But hell, the soft flutter of acoustic and electric guitars in "The False Awakening Pt. I: Preludity" honest-to-God resembles Stone Temple Pilots' "Creep" (that's a compliment).

But those vocals don't really trend towards '90s alt-rock--unless you count Radiohead, because if anyone's lending lead vocalist Jordan Cruz an influence, it's gotta be Thom Yorke, as evidenced by Cruz's versatile approach. It ranges from definite falsettos to awkward yearning. It happens in "Pt. III: The Poisoned Apple" as well, a violin-lended shoegazer that kinda sounds like indie/post-rockers O'Brother (as does lightly electronic-littered closer "The Dream Sequence," which is followed by a fairly epic piano ballad coda).

Some temporary guitar wankery comes in "Pt. II: The Carnival" and "Pt. III," but they get commended for it because it's not overdone and adds a quick, effective moment of tension (or release thereof, maybe). And the more post-rock-leaning tones really resonate well, as in "Re-Creation in Sleep," the rare song that truly manages to do something on some level of interesting from start to finish. The guitar squalls and female vocal layering in "Electric Light (The Foreshadow Future Anthem)" is well-done too, with an ending that gets into a grainy, Dear Hunter-esque shout-along.

Okay, so maybe it's just that the second half is pretty solid and cool with plenty of sensible, building elements, but the first half is a big bowl of 'eh.' The band is recording a new EP that will be out pretty soon, so let's hope they trim the fat and find what works for them best to create something well-rounded and enjoyable throughout.

The Empty Glass (Zero Equals Zero)
The False Awakening Pt. II: The Carnival
The False Awakening Pt. III: Poisoned Apple
Re-Creation in Sleep
The Dream Sequence