There are strange `chicken and egg’ scenarios going on with The Six Parts Seven. First of all, as my wife and I listened to their new album, Everywhere and Right Here, we at first felt like something was missing. We imagined either someone like Ben Gibbard or Jon Thor Birgisson contributing vocals. Maybe it’s because there’s very little instrumental music in our collection and we’re not used to indie bands without vocals; but, in any case, I’m not entirely sure. We both agreed that the music was fantastic, but that it was building to something, like we kept waiting for something else to happen, to pay off. We hypothesized that maybe they hadn’t found the right voice for their unique sound. We hypothesized that they didn’t really want to be a `famous’ indie band, and to be `famous’ you have to have a singer.
Then I thought, `Wow! What a great idea I just had! They should just take all of their music and ask their buddies to contribute vocals. That way they get to make the music they want to make, and then somebody else adds the singing! Genius!’ Well, not really, since that already happened. The Six Parts Seven released Lost Notes from Forgotten Songs in late 2003. They essentially did everything I `suggested’ they do, including having such luminaries as Sam Beam and Isaac Brock perform their own takes on Six Parts Seven songs. Maybe I forgot that I had read a review of the CD and it lodged away in my memory until I had just recalled it in that moment. Well, that either proves that great minds think alike, or that I’m a huge dunderhead. Don’t answer that.
Another strange thing is that I then assumed that the band’s name came from the fact that they were a sextet missing a vocalist. They were essentially six-sevenths of a band. Well, it turns out that the band had the name before they bulked themselves up to six people, and now they actually have seven! There went that clever notion.
We listened to Everywhere and Right Here on the way to see the film Garden State. Something about the heavy emotions that lay subdued and under the surface of every aspect of that film turned some kind of switch in our heads. With the CD playing on the stereo under our conversation about the film, we reached a pause. After about thirty seconds I said, “Is it just me, or does this music seem a whole hell of a lot better?”
My wife laughed and agreed, noting that she was about to say the same thing. And in the end, this is what was missing from the record, our understanding of it. Its subdued emotions, building to something, which we thought before were vocals, but instead was a sensory breakthrough. This album demands an emotional response. It requires that you get in touch with whatever feelings you might either be harboring secretly, hiding, or otherwise ignoring.
Someone I know once said they didn’t feel that emotions had a place in popular music. Of course, if that were true, there wouldn’t be any popular music. It’s just that some of it has more than others. While some artists wear their hearts on their sleeves, others make you work a little for it, interpreting lyrics or, in the case of this album, finding your own emotions to match the musical landscape they create. The song that my wife and I happened to have been listening to was “The Quick Fire,” which, as it happens, turns out to be a cover song. The duo of the Karpinski brothers, on guitar and drums, with the added vibes of Eric Koltnow, made this song more than just an instrumental number; they made it a soul-stirring piece of art.
Other tracks are equally as moving, including the two longest pieces on the album, “What We Can Just Make Out” and “A Blueprint of Something Never Finished,” a title they borrowed, but which almost exactly matches my initial thoughts of the band. This is a band that, as I have even shown, can tend to be overlooked because of its lack of lyrics. Would Sigur Ros be as popular without a vocalist? Even though hardly anyone can even sing along to his Icelandic lyrics, his presence is enough to add that extra push to popularity. Many critics and a few select fans have given The Six Parts Seven the credit they deserve, but I don’t know whether they’ll ever cross that invisible line.
As a final note, the album cover is more than fantastic and should launch Jesse LeDoux to Chip Kidd status. He’s the best in the business today.
Tuatara- Breaking the Ethers
Sigur Ros- ( )
The Album Leaf- In a Safe Place