Review: State Lines – For The Boats

Yep. This’ll be a Tiny Engines release then. All of their acts that I’ve heard so far (Dikembe, Desolate Peaks, Jowls etc) have the distinctive quality of being able to squeeze a lot of sonic action into deceptively short songs.
This, the second or “sophomore” full-length release by Long Island NYC’s State Lines – is no exception. Within the general confines of a sparsely-produced, 8-trackish sounding guitar / drums / bass formula – entirely reminiscent of fellow NYC outfits For Serious this time and Sneeze – this covers a lot of stylistic ground, while avoiding any filler. Now. Is it emo? Is it pop punk? Is it lo-fi? Is it post hardcore? Is it garage punk? It’s all of ’em. You’d be fairly fucked if you tried to file it under a single itunes genre tag. You get forays into all of these territories, and a few more. There’s a lot of good stuff going on here, and it takes a few listens to get it all, such as the nods to white boy hip hop (Shady Existence), grunge (Water Song – spot the Nirvana homage), straight acoustic (Where it’s Warm) and even Nick Drake-style folk (For the Ears).

I hear their debut release was a touch limp – bit too much moping and no trousers. Whilst there’s a ruck of emotional vulnerability on display here, there’s also backbone: deliberately sharp lyrical edges and snarly vocals that deliver some acid turns of phrase with absolute sincerity and, well, charm. And that lift matters comfortably clear of wet blouse indie guitar territory. Lyrically, this is a collection of simple little vignettes of post-childhood, pre-adult life in maritime US suburbia: tales of driving in your minivan (The Same Mistake); beaches covered in snow (Tuesday Morning); and of quietly missing the simplicity and expectancy of being a kid (Kids, Indian Burn). Snapshots of ordinary loss, failure to live up to expectations. That sort of thing. And very winsome it is too.

In all, these boys have crafted a long player with a maturity of sound that belies the angst and confessional subject matter – and the goofy outtakes slipped in amongst the actual tracks themselves. There’s a unifying theme woven in here, references to ships and that slipped in across all the tracks – it’s called “for the boats” for a reason. I’ve not worked out what that reason is, but this is no way detracts from what is an accomplished and stylish work of ultra-modern East Coast guitar music.

4 out of 5 high fives!

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