This is a review of "Untitled" recorded by Five Mile Island. The review was written by Jessica Thornsby in 2009.
'Seconds Out,' the opening track of Five Mile Island's debut demo is actually the weakest of the five songs on offer. Not the best way to kick off an EP then, but even 'Seconds Out' shows some promise, especially if you take into account that this band is just starting out.
Five Mile Island clearly have an ear for the unusual riff, opening with an intriguing mix of buzzy chords and whining slide-guitar. The rest of the song's low-key indie-rock jangle is sprinkled with intricate staccato guitar-picking.
The chorus of shunting, hooky riffs and buzzy bass is also remarkably catchy. To say frontman Owen doesn't have the world's greatest voice, is a vast understatement, but he's found a method of singing that works tolerably well, in the form of a semi-spoken, self-consciously cool indie drawl.
So, a nice bit of guitar work and a knack for penning a catchy chorus. 'Seconds Out' won't blow you away but, bearing in mind this band hasn't been together all that long, this isn't a bad effort, and it does get better.
Owen puts in a far stronger vocal performance on the hazy indie-rock of 'Fossils.' The glimmery-edged, stop-start riffs bounce neatly off a light drum-patter during the verses, and Five Mile Island slip into looser, meandering guitar lines for a summery-sounding chorus.
It's a pleasant surprise just how much 'Fossils' grows on you. A vigorous pre-chorus drum-roll that sounds like it has nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the song, is the only thing that threatens to jar you out of 'Fossils's sunny reverie.
The first half of 'Safehouses' is built on a buzzy, undulating riff trimmed in star-burst chords. It's an unusual sound, with more than a touch of ambient rock about it. This song also sees another marked improvement in Owen's voice, as he lays whispery-edged, tentative vocals over 'Safehouses's sparkly alt-rock. You'll wonder just what went wrong with his vocals on questionably-sung EP opener 'Seconds Out.'
'Safehouses' shakes things up towards the end, as some desperate riffing is slipped into the mix, which is a definite positive. Then, the song breaks off into pounding drumbeats and cringe-worthy semi-spoken vocals, which is a definite negative.
But, save for that last-minute slip-up, 'Safehouses' proves Five Mile Island can make good use of the potential lurking in their less-accomplished tracks.
There's something vaguely Mediterranean about 'Paper Romance's meandering guitar lines and crystalline strumming. Once again, they prove they have a knack for the neat, pop-infused chorus, as hook-packed riffs trade off Owen's vocals. If Owen's voice was a little stronger, this is one chorus that'd grab you on the first listen and never let you go. As it stands, it'll take a few extra listens for it to work its magic - but it'll get there in the end.
EP-closer 'The Golden Age' proves that you can get away with being repetitive, if what you're repeating is an hypnotic combination of plodding drumbeats and dreamy, ambient-rock-esque sound effects.
Five Mile Island up the tempo towards the end, dragging in an ugly, serrated-edged riff that is one step away from sounding like distortion. It clashes against the twinkling, ambient backing track, but at least Five Mile Island don't just let this low-key number trail off into nothingness.
Five Mile Island have a sound that'll grow on you over the course of this EP. 'Seconds Out' isn't the best introduction to the band but, by 'Paper Romance' you'll be sold on Five Mile Island. Frontman Owen can't hit those big notes, but he seems to know this, and doesn't really try to. He just about gets away with it, and his unusual vocal style will, like the rest of this EP, grow on you after a few listens. A promising first effort.