Editor's Note: For the last nine years, Splendid's reviews have been edited pretty aggressively -- for grammar, punctuation, spelling, usage, accuracy, coherence and thoroughness of argument, and even adherence to "house" style. There are two reasons for this. First of all, I've always believed that for online magazines to succeed, they must offer the highest quality content possible. Second, how can you trust a publication to recommend music if its writers can't tell the difference between there, their and they're? That said, editing is extremely time consuming, and on many occasions over the last nine years, I've wondered what would happen if I took a week off and let the reviews go through completely untouched. Long story short: this week, from December 5th through December 10th, is that week, and the review you're about to read is untouched by editorial hands. Will this new (and very temporary) hands-off policy make a difference? Will you even notice? We'll see...
Dwindle play (or, rather, played) unemotional, guitar-centric indie-pop with killer guitar hooks and pleasant (albeit nondescript) vocals. History Is Easy is apparently the final chapter in the band's discography, and was released for free online almost four years after their previous album, the oft-lauded Expectance/Acceptance. Like that volume, History was recorded and mixed by J. Robbins and sports some stunning production. Sadly, Dwindle's upbeat, enjoyable tunes could really use some more engaging vocal melodies, which lead singer Brooce Templeton rarely provides. Even when he does, the vocals are too low in the mix to really fill the sonic space that they're meant to inhabit.
Opener "Left Only Clues" features one of the record's few truly brilliant vocal melodies. Templeton's vocals follow the verse's syncopated crunchy guitar riff, then launch into a driving power-pop refrain: "Never did I hear you say 'What's it matter to me, anyway'." It may not make a whole lot of sense, but it rhymes in a satisfyingly Bob Mould-esque way, so you'll quickly begin singing along. "Separation Perfected"'s guitars sear a series of memorable melodies into your brain, but the vocals lack its predecessor's punch.
On "Someone Else", animated percussion lays the groundwork for ingeniously voiced guitar harmonies. "Persistence Pays Off"'s verse boasts similarly compelling guitar and bass interplay, which gives way to History's most infectious refrain. When they were clicking on all cylinders, Dwindle churned out energetic tunes with clever, rhythmically and melodically nuanced guitar-work buttressed by solid drumming and topped with unpretentious vocals.
Given its strengths, it's kind of surprising that Dwindle was never able to turn more heads. When you consider their abundance of beautiful guitar hooks and harmonies, along with their subtly inventive instrumentation, the need for a strong vocal presence is obvious. There's a lot to like on History is Easy, but Dwindle never fully realized their melodic potential. Their music is trapped somewhere between emo and indie-pop, lacking either sufficient emotional intensity or palpable pop sensibility.