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Instead of Sleeping's latest album Young Lungs shows that the Pittsburgh rockers have a lot to share, but they're still figuring out how to best get the words out.
The band shows an impressive amount of versatility on this album. Over the course of just 26 minutes, we hear reverb-splashed guitar licks, fuzzy synth keyboard, dreamy pad swells, groovy basslines, and an electropop drum machine, all of which are unified by bubbly pop melodies. The results are somewhere between upbeat, Future Islands-style synthpop and accessible, Imagine Dragons-style dance-rock. Sometimes they're successful, like the patient, confident opener, "Volatile." Other times, the pop bombast sounds overproduced, most notably on the pompous, room-filling track "The One". Even the acoustic album closer "Ammo" doesn't quite achieve the drama Instead of Sleeping aspire to. Still, the wide stylistic range of this album is proof that the band has stand-out ambitions.
Where Instead of Sleeping truly falter is their lyrics. Lines like "Muscles tense/At the thought of using his claws/Born to hunt/Since he could walk on his paws" from the track "Tired Tigers" hit much more like a word association exercise or a brief jaunt through a rhyming dictionary than the sincere feelings of a young man aching to escape and achieve something greater. Especially when presented in front-man Shaun Sweeney's unremarkable pop singer voice, the words take a lot of expressive energy away from what might have been a groovy, interesting rock song.
It's a shame because Instead of Sleeping have the potential to make a name for themselves by pushing the boundaries of pop. If they sharpen their sound to match their ambition, it's not impossible that we'll be seeing more of them in the near future.
Favorite tracks: "Volatile,""Speak into Me"
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