by Mike Rusenovich
Saintseneca’s Dark Arc
Columbus, OH band Saintseneca is close to the release of their second full-length album, Dark Arc. A cursory listen to any of their songs would make them easy to dismiss – at first blush, Saintseneca is just another indie folk-pop band. It’s been argued that folk pop is the new decade’s answer to the Creed style post-punk that dominated the airwaves in the early 2000s. Many modern bands can be just as commercial, believing overproduced breathy vocals and echoing toms can win the hearts of young people. Dark Arc, though, has depths that place Saintseneca far and away from the car-commercial, banjo-twee pack. It’s impossible to review a band with this sound without a subtle reference to the kings of the genre, Mumford and Sons. Let’s make it overt. Too often, Mumford and Sons loses the personal connection with their audience. Their music is emotional, but the lyrics are hard to understand and repetitive. Saintseneca does not have this problem.
On songs like “Only the Young Die Good” and “Uppercutter,” Saintseneca are not afraid to show off their poetic chops. Songs like “Happy Alone,” on the other hand, are able to be direct and lyrical at the same time. This is surprisingly hard to pull off without situations and feelings being cheesy or sounding made up. Part of how Saintseneca succeeds is in the delivery. Zac Little, the band’s frontman, can growl and stomp with the best of them, but his voice is surprisingly tender. Not weak, really, but intimate. It’s not perfect, but it is beautiful.The band backs him up with instrumentation that is both deliberate and organic. If there is a banjo part in a song, it’s not there because the band thought that a banjo would sound good at that particular point. It’s because that is where a banjo is supposed to be. That kind of appropriateness is difficult to describe, but immediately identifiable on every single one of the tracks on Dark Arc. It’s also what lets the band play songs with a punk edge or a ballad feel without the track becoming forced.
In the end, Saintseneca’s honesty is what makes Dark Arc a rock-solid album. They do not pretend to be anything they are not. They never overstep their bounds. They do not sacrifice their control or their personality in order to create a sweeping pop hit that leaves the listener empty. Put simply, listening to Dark Arc feels good and leaves you happy long after the the album is over. The fact that Saintseneca can make an album like this just by being themselves makes the band even more impressive.
Dark Arc comes out April 1st, and can be listened to right now at NPR Music. http://n.pr/1m1vQGl