Luther – Siblings & Sevens

Luther coverApparently Philly bands are a thing right now on NFI. There’s no intentional pattern to it, folks, I’m just writing about what I’ve been sent. Still, recently we’ve had reviews of Empire! Empire! and Hightide Hotel, and to the output of that state we can add Luther.

They’re band with not much of a story. This isn’t too their detriment; I’ve just not been able to dig up much info online. One thing that I have been able to find, from one of the two labels which published this record, is the phrase “a natural nervousness”. Kind of an odd phrase, huh? It’s in reference to the music, sure, but slinging a phrase like “natural nervousness” into the mix when you’re writing about a band is suggestive in itself. It suggests that Luther are a band who prefer to let the music take centre stage, to keep the players in the background while what they create speaks for itself.

What it speaks of is a band who are, well, a really pleasant listen. There’s a decent amount of variance here, between songs that strike a relaxed balance between minimalism and midpace as in ‘Siblings’ – vocally focused, highlighting the emotional quality of the vocals, the gentle dexterity of a few simple guitar picks and those subtle ambient touches that flesh out such a song – and more driving numbers such as ‘There’s Always Money’, a track that reminds me unexpectedly of Cattle Drums in that, frankly, the octave chords in the verses are to fucking die for.

I may have a thing for octave chords. I defy a man to find a more inherently affecting kind of chord progression.

I’ve spotted a few Jimmy Eat World comparisons in my online explorations around Luther. It’s probably with ‘There’s Always Money’ that these feel truest; their softer, gentler songs lack the saccharine, balladic quality that characterises Jimmy Eat World, and their more driving tunes tend away from the openly anthemic, but here with that killer chord progression, a strong and memorable vocal line, and a sense of urgency and even desperation to the lyrics… yeah, I can see that comparison.

Nothing else leaps out quite as obviously to me. ‘The Suitor’ chugs along well enough, its fat buzzy guitars proving cosy to those whose musical incubation was swaddled in distortion, and ‘The Communion’ proves that Luther can layer vocals like pros – as well as interweave guitar lines with a deft and affecting style. But it’s hard to escape the feeling that, while Luther are a good band, they’re not a great one. Little about Siblings & Sevens forces its way inextricably into the memory: a vocal line here, a chord progression there, moments where everything pulls together wonderfully, sure… but they’re just moments.

Still, is there anything wrong with good music played with skill and passion? Obviously, no, there ain’t. And Luther certainly deliver on that. Yet it’s hard to avoid the fact that there’s little more I can think to say about Siblings & Sevens beyond “yeah, it’s pretty good, huh?”

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