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The Haul: National Skyline's Bloom and Look into My Eyes EPs

Jeff Garber’s been clearing the National Skyline vaults this year with a series of EPs, proving that the eight years between This = Everything and Bliss & Death (which I covered here and here) weren’t comprised solely of Year of the Rabbit, the Joy Circuit, and National Skyline’s The Last Day EP. These EP tracks are culled from a cast-aside National Skyline album called Faux Evil, a brief foray as the Black Swan, and b-sides from the Bliss & Death sessions. I anticipate the third EP to be more of the same, but he may very well be working on some all-new material for that one. [Editor’s note: No idea if this third EP will ever come into existence.]

The barometer for success on both of these EPs is straightforward: the closer to Bliss & Death and the further away from The Last Day the better. I’m not expecting anything like the National Skyline EP or This = Everything, but I don’t want to relive the yearning modern rock of “The Last Day.”

As I mentioned before, I hate buying MP3s and would’ve bought physical copies of these EPs long before their digital counterparts, but I had $10 of Amazon MP3 store credit to spend and only one logical use. If Garber decides to press all of this stuff on vinyl I’ll gladly fork over the money for it (hint hint).

115. National Skyline – Bloom EP MP3s – Adventure Broadcasting, 2009 – $4.99

National Skyline's The Bloom EP

With two alternate versions of songs from Bliss & Death, the Bloom EP feels like a standard CD5 from the mid 1990s. The title track gets a single edit, done for its video, which will make it easier to slot into my year-end mix, but I probably could’ve done a reasonable edit on my own. “Edge of the World” appears in an acoustic take, which is pleasant but hardly necessary. So the EP comes down to its three unreleased songs. You can read Garber’s origins for the songs here, but it’s worth making those comments a bit more transparent.

“Gravity (I-IV)” is the clear winner, a nearly eight-minute-long take on shoegaze-informed 1990s rock that Garber deemed too heavy for Bliss & Death. While I think the 1990s part would make “Gravity” stick out on the album more than its comparative heft, it’s a nice venture into Fantastic Planet-era Failure and probably more interesting than anything that came out of Garber’s collaboration with Ken Andrews himself, Year of the Rabbit. (Don’t expect me to return to that album anytime soon.)

“Lights Out” and “Silence” are more mixed. The former was deemed too poppy for the album (accurate) and ultimately comes off as a more musically interesting version of “The Last Day.” Trite lyrics like “Wearing all the things that nobody wears / Whoa-oh” don’t do Garber any favors, but the post-U2 guitar textures are fine. “Silence” starts out as a muffled piano ballad before bursting out multi-tracked guitar leads. It ends with a return to the minimal aesthetic of the intro, but I’d prefer if he’d stuck with that style the whole song.

116. National Skyline – Look into My Eyes EP MP3s – Adventure Broadcasting, 2009 – $4.99

National Skyline's Look into My Eyes EP

Look into My Eyes features four new songs and one alternate take of a Bliss & Death song. The latter is a drum-programming-happy version of “Glimmer,” which sounds more like This = Everything but the aesthetic doesn’t quite fit the song.

The rest of Look into My Eyes stresses something that first came to me regarding Bliss & Death: the outros are almost always the most interesting part of the song. The title track is a zero-sum game, as negilible modern rock guitars and trite lyrics are balanaced out by intriguing outro and some better vocal melodies. “Hope?” starts with more of the mid-tempo semi-acoustic foundation from much of Bliss and Death, but its extended outro is a great payoff, layering synth trumpets, a focused guitar arpeggio, hand claps, and strummed acoustics with aplomb. It could have easily been on the LP. The two-minute “In Flight Movie” bucks the trend by being a short instrumental, but I could argue that it’s an outro waiting to happen. Finally, “Someone Else’s Dream” technically kicks in during the bridge, but the second half of the song is so much better than the relatively bland beginning.

I have to wonder if Garber salvaged these songs by tacking on the interesting parts. While that may sound cynical, I look at it this way: imagine how good his next LP will be if he starts with the outros.

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On Dec 31, 04:23 PM Justin said,