Elliott's members have never lacked ambition -- but if wielded improperly, ambition can tear a band apart at the seams. The band's place in the rough-hewn emo hierarchy is well established, but their work has always been gracefully grandiloquent enough to offset their reputation as mere punk rock posers. False Cathedrals
hinted at the outfit's new bearing; with Song in the Air
, the second phase of Elliott's career is officially under way.
Song in the Air exists in stark contrast to the group's recorded canon; the emotional resonance that has always been such a major tenet of the band's work has been washed away in a tsunami of delayed piano, sweeping strings and guitars employed as synthetic noise machines. While songs like "Believe" and "Beijing (too many people)" soar into stratosphere generally reserved for Sigur Rós or Mogwai, that same stately drive hurtles "Drag Like Pull" into bloated prog-rock territory -- broken falsetto, gnashing guitars and cylindrical keyboard flourishes. Even the band's musical weapon of choice has been rendered inactive: opener "Land and Water" buries Chris Higden's sky-scraping tenor in an morass of production muck that it never escapes. As Higden struggles to make his way to the forefront, his bandmates appear greedy, desperately reaching for moments of startling stateliness -- much to the detriment of the songs themselves, which are lost in an atmospheric morass with delusions of (Radiohead) grandeur written all over it.
Song in the Air strives valiantly towards a unified purpose -- but this time, Elliott's ambition has gotten the better of them.