Koala Fires The Beeping in Our Hearts

[Self-Released; 2010]

Styles: pop-post-punk
Others: Mission of Burma, Spacehog

The full-length debut from Cincinnati’s Koala Fires finds the band sharpening the most appealing aspects of 2009’s Sleep Tight, Lucky Grills EP while simultaneously expanding into new territory (full disclosure: I’ve met the Koala Fires’ guitarist, Kendall Bruns, since my original review). The group’s increased confidence is evident from even a passing comparison of “The Friendly Ghost” with its previously released version. By pushing the guitar further down in the mix and emphasizing Dan Johnson’s pulsing bass, they uncover a whole new sense of urgency in the song. “Thunderbugs” gets a similar makeover, and both tracks benefit from higher production values that add depth to the vocal harmonies and sharpen the melodies’ pivot points.

Yet The Beeping in Our Hearts departs significantly from the sugar-buzz pop that defined the group’s previous effort. The band plays with a variety of dynamic ranges, and to good effect. Front and center in many of Koala Fires’ most enjoyable songs is Mike Paolucci’s nimble drumming. His military snare beat unites Kendall Bruns’s crunchy guitar with a moaning saxophone on album opener “Observers.” A portentous drum fill segues the lazy swing of “All the World’s Been Staged” into a satisfyingly grand finale. Similarly rousing is the anthemic “Forever Our Heads Will Burn,” with its steady build-up from Paolucci’s bass-drum-heavy opening rhythm to the song’s call-and-response chorus.

It’s not quite a flawless album. The lyrics are still a bit of a question mark for me, and while they carry a palatable vibe of heartfelt sincerity mingled with 20-something spiritual angst, they rarely gel into a cohesive picture. With the way the songs are grouped, the shortest, peppiest tracks come at the beginning, while the last six songs all linger around the five-minute mark. This adds weight to the record’s back end and sucks some of the momentum out of this otherwise bright and energetic collection of songs. But these shortcomings are easy to overlook when measured against the album’s many charms. The Beeping in Our Hearts is a pleasurable work with plenty of pop savvy to go around.

Links: Koala Fires

Most Read