THIS IS NOT DREAM POP. God damn. Can’t a band just be called rock and roll? Seeing one-liners about this band being this or that just makes me feel slimy. For once, I can say a band is just playing good music with no boundaries. That’s Pomegranates and their latest with Heaven.
Hailing from Cincy, these Ohio bandits have seemingly found a way to blend together practically all the flavors of the present scenes into a really refreshing fun and quirky band. It’s surf without the whammy bars and reverb. It’s noisy without minutes-long drone and feedback solos. It’s catchy without trying. It’s effortlessly fun.
Check out “Passaway” below!
It’s no-nonsense rock. That’s what you get straight from the beginning and it holds out until the very end. You aren’t shammed into believing it’s one thing for three songs and then it flips into a puddle of mediocrity. Oh no, my friends. It’s simple in it’s approach: sonically kick your ass from front to back.
The four piece group has two singers, Joey Cook and Isaac Karns, who make up a fairly strong dichotomy of high-register and mid-register vocals. It’s akin to the vocal dichotomy that Matt Pryor and Jim Suptic have in The Get Up Kids. Vocally, it’s arranged wonderfully. The tracks play to practically every single strength you can think of between these two, with features from bassist Curt Kiser. Cook and Karns also don’t seem to step on each others toes in terms of musical variation between songs. The “Joey” songs aren’t extremely different from the “Isaac” songs, which leads me to believe the lyrics and how they are sung is more of a band effort than it is between the lyric-writers. In this case, it seemingly feels as if the entire band plays a role in constructing all facets of the song, whether it is their instrument or not. This leads to the idea that Pomegranates is not just a band, but an ongoing musical project. And Heaven is a great product of the project.
Instrumentally, the variation between songs in terms of genre-bending and style-mashing is quite remarkable. A more mellow song like “Dream” feature strong piano presence, with some gentle drumming and ride cymbal tapping from Jacob Merritt, all tied together with some full on falsetto vocals. This is in contrast to the more upbeat songs like “Passaway”, where flares of big fuzzy guitars and swing-time rhythm twist around a weird disco-esque chorus, or ”Sisters”, which is all guitar rock with a taste of old school punk. You can’t really pigeonhole this band into one category or another. Fans of Cloud Nothings could find a solace in this more outlandish art rock. Similarly, Animal Collective fans could find themselves enjoying the genre-bending antics of Heaven.
The next step is? The unpredictability is an aspect of this album that is extremely entertaining, however it’s hard to figure in a way that this band keeps it up in a way that isn’t just rehashing the same sound. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is no rehashing of anything on this album. But it’s hard to say Pomegranates have the ability to stun me again next time around. That’s just a cynical way to look at it, but it may be more realistic than it seems… with the exception of maybe a handful of albums, I haven’t heard two consecutive album releases that were equally as stunning.
A con that isn’t against this album or band is the fact that some have decided to lump this into the dream/shoegaze category because of it’s fusion of some more spacey soundscapes towards the end of the album. This is a complete con as these guys stand well above that scene. “Lost Lives” may be one of the only songs that have that vibe, with “Surfing the Human Heart” being more “dreamy” but without the space-and-laser flanger and phaser effects. But about three years ago, you would have reviewed this album and just called those last songs “the slow jams of the album”. And that’s EXACTLY what they are. The album’s flow goes from complete ass kickery into that feeling you have after you’ve sprinted ten miles and are now slowly walking it out and breathing irregularly. This album is sort of track listed perfectly to capture the final all-out sprint for a finish line, winning, and the subsequent excitement and cool down afterwards. It can also be akin to the climatic moment of sex, subsequent happiness and pillow talk, and finally cuddling it out before you fall asleep. Your choice.
Maybe one of the seemingly plausible arguments would be did they keep it up-beat long enough before they went into the slow jams? Personally, yeah they completely nailed it. But I can see that some may have though there would have been more uptempo grooves towards the end of the album. Instead, listeners will be met with a fairly streamlined cool down from just about the middle of the album to the end. Could this possibly indicate a direction of the band on the next album? Not at all. Even through the more mellow tracks, quirks and kinks are many, and all are interesting. I would say most looking for a more B-52s or The Talking Heads type revival band should look elsewhere — there is much more here than trying to recreate nostalgia.
It’s silly to think that this album isn’t one of the most surprising gems of the year. Granted, it may be one of the only summer albums I’ve clamored to, it has an argument to be one of the best summer albums this year. Is there too much going on? Hard to say. Is there enough of one thing? At that point, I ask what the hell are you looking for? This album, Heaven, is about one thing: making the best music you can. And Pomegranates show that their best isn’t just of the opinion of four guys from Cincinnati — this may be one of the best albums of the entire year.