Saso's debut album Big Group Hug continues where last year's Internet-only Warmed Up EP left off-- only this time, the music is darker and more sparse.
Taking a cue from Talk Talk, Pink Floyd, and Mogwai, the record begins on a good note with the title track. The short, but sweet composition is followed by "Bleed Bath", featuring a hilarious sound clip via Kramer from Seinfeld. This short sound clip marks the most unexpected moment of the album, which is not entirely bad, but not entirely good.
Which brings me to my main beef with the album: I can't listen to the entire album without brewing up my own suggestions and improvements. I know it's not my job to write the songs, yet as I listen to the album, I feel compelled to note missed opportunities and failed ideas. The album is not bad, by any means, but it seems that with every good, there's a bad-- and the bad outweighs the good by a fraction.
Example 1: The most rewarding moments on the album lie within its drawn-out, ambient sonics and minimal approach. None of the 10 songs flood you with climax after climax; they slowly build themselves to a modest climax, evident on the album's gem "Lazy Bones". Although this may be their strongest song, it ends prematurely, leaving me longing for more. The same case can be made with "Dimwit", an extremely lush instrumental piece that ends on the warmest organ I've heard in years, yet the song fades as the organ enters.
Example 2: Another rewarding aspect comes from the tasteful use of the instruments. The array of guitars are accompanied by drums only when necessary. This tasteful use of drums is as effective as having the drums pounding away. Also, the vocals are typically used tastefully and effectively. But unfortunately, the vocals are neither strong, nor unique; and I wouldn't mind never hearing "My Brain Hurts" again, which rudely disrupts the flow of the otherwise cohesive album with its cheesy lyrics and Pink Floyd-ish music.
There is no doubt that Saso has created an extremely beautiful record with emotion to spare, but throughout the 40 minutes of music, only a few parts manage to shine through. Overall, the album just seems too perfect and overproduced; it's not that every album needs white noise, dissonance, and conflicting notes, but it wouldn't hurt to explore some uncharted territories. The album just seems overly calculated and lacks any sort of uncomfortable moment, coming off a little tame.
But keep in mind Big Group Hug is Saso's first full-length album. Not many bands are so well-equipped and talented to pull off an album of this capacity. And although there were a lot of suggestions made in this review-- it's not my band -- and I'm confident that the band has the potential to create a near flawless album on their own terms.
1. Big Group Hug
2. Bleed Bath
3. Bird Brain
5. Lazy Bones
8. My Brain Hurts
9. All My Life
10. When the dust settles -- off with their heads