Monday, March 30, 2009

March 30: Soccer Team, "Volunteered Civility & Professionalism"

Artist: Soccer Team
Album: Volunteered Civility & Professionalism
Year: 2006
Label: Dischord

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: for the best, most original music around today, grab anything from Dischord Records. Constantly searching for new, amazing sounds, Dischord remains the pinnacle of a label with no "format agenda." From the loud, aggressive sound of Black Eyes to the simple mood of The Evens, the bands on Dischord are truly a cross-section of everything that is fresh and amazing in today's music scene. The label is so phenomenal, that even their employees make amazing albums. In 2006, Dischord employees Ryan Nelson and Melissa Quinley formed the group Soccer Team, and released their own album to date, Volunteered Civility & Professionalism.

The duos that Dischord produces are nearly always amazing, as seen in the work of The Evens and Aquarium, among others. With Soccer Team, the small-band success continues, and the stripped down, organic sound fits the bands' style perfectly. Soccer Team has a talent for writing extremely un-poppy, pop songs. The tunes found on Volunteered Civility & Professionalism are all catchy and well constructed, yet represent a sound like nothing else around. At times, the songs on Volunteered Civility & Professionalism almost seem like incomplete thoughts, or perhaps "themes" as opposed to songs with a "normal" structure. This is not a bad thing, as each song is nothing short of brilliant. The vocal work is so gorgeous, that many times, the songs truly leave you wanting more. This is no more clear than in the short, yet beautiful song, "Head Outside." The ethereal music, and Quinley's stunning vocals create a cozy, almost intoxicating mood, yet the song is just a touch over two minutes.

As is often the case with duo's and trio's, the music is rather simple in nature, but not to the point where it sacrifices originality or skill. With Nelson handling both bass and guitar, and Quinley taking duties on drums, all of
Volunteered Civility & Professionalism has a natural, yet sophisticated sound. The range of musical ideas is impressive, and there are clear influences from groups like Throwing Muses and The Who throughout the record. These influences are perhaps most clear on "All The Walkers Home," which feels like the spacey, borderline spooky feel that Pink Floyd mastered in their "pre-Dark Side" years. However, Soccer Team has such a distinctive sound, that the similarity does not seem intentional, but the influence is clearly present.

One of the best things about Soccer Team is that both musicians have amazing voices, and the shared vocal duties push
Volunteered Civility & Professionalism to the "next level." While their voices are similar in that they are both very warm and relaxing, they are each distinctive in their delivery, and their voices play beautifully off of one another, giving the album amazing depth. Both Quinley and Nelson sound just as good whispering the vocals as well as they do when they are singing at full strength. Simply put, both of them have boundless vocal talent, and also posses a great understanding of what sounds best with each of their songs. The lyrical throughout Volunteered Civility & Professionalism are just as gorgeous as the music and vocals. Many of the ideas behind the songs are refreshingly universal, from simple tales of every day life ("We Closed A Record Store,") to one of the more interesting tributes ever recorded ("Johnny Hart's B.C.") This range in lyrical themes is yet another reflection on the wide-ranging ability that is found in Soccer Team.

When a group is able to make pop songs that sound nothing like pop songs, it is clear that the formula they are presenting is working quite well. Finding bands that are able to accomplish this feat is a skill that Dischord Records has been perfecting for nearly thirty years. From Fugazi to Black Eyes to The Evens, the bands on Dischord are always original, and always amazingly talented. A pair of employees stepped out of the offices and into the studio and released one of the finest records that Dischord has ever put out, with Soccer Team's
Volunteered Civility & Professionalism. The lo-fi production, uncluttered instrumentation, and fantastic vocal work make the record stand out from anything else in music today. Though they suffer the fate of all "small" labels and don't get much exposure, Soccer Team and their album, Volunteered Civility & Professionalism are readily available from and everyone should experience this beautifully original and amazing record.

Standout tracks: "We Closed A Record Store," "Head Outside," and "Traffic Patterns"

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