Albert Einstein once said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible … but not simpler.” Unfortunately, the fledgling Seattle-based, Indie-pop-trio, The Prints of China, has fallen into the latter simplicity.
Their debut EP, False Fronts, is aptly titled. At a first glance, Prints appears to have the arsenal necessary for a proper Indie debut. Vocalist/Guitarist Carrie Kapp’s filtered croon offers a rich, almost jazz-like quality that leaves the listener feeling truly soothed by the music. At first, the composition seems to have a purposeful minimalist aim (a popular theme among modern Indies) and the songs even occasionally reveal a lyrical prowess. Yet the supporting band, secondary to the glaring vocal prominence, offers little more than simplistic picking and a continuous looping bass in order to uphold the melody, displaying a depth (and fun factor) equivalent to playing chat roulette in a baby pool. Okay. That might be a little fun. But still, I expect a bit more from Seattle.
The debut song on the album, “Empty Vessels,” seems to be the talent show of the five-track EP, displaying the most versatility of any track. The song begins with a solo snare and a distorted tweak common to so many Indie bands (Woods, Beach House), which commences the track with a simplistic, but no doubt catchy, riff. The melody is also something that you’ll find yourself humming for quite some time after the fact, truly an accomplishment for an EP that eventually grows tiresome, offering little more than repetitive, melody-reliant riffs.
Don’t get me wrong; the music works great in the background, maybe study-time tunes, something to chill out to. And it is entirely refreshing to hear a vocally rich female amongst all of the strained vocals of modern singers. But that’s about as far as it goes.
On first listen I was excited to hear how the music unfolded, initially impressed by the soothing vocals and relaxing simplicity. But after two minutes of curiosity, I felt a sort of musical void. It was as if I could feel the distant goal of what the band had intended to achieve, but all I could hear was practice, no overarching originality that set the band apart from the rest of the sappy Indie crowd. Akin to the struggle of Tantalus, the band tempts but fails to satisfy, grappling for something just out of reach. Perhaps left with just a false front.
In all, the band does have potential. They need to tap into a deeper creative wellspring, especially compositionally. The intent is there, and the music even slightly offers a soothing style of its own. Prints might even help themselves out if they adhere to a more traditional structure. But there is nothing special, nothing wholly captivating at all about the music. As Einstein warned, Prints of China has simplified its sound just a bit too much.
-Andrew Stone, Host of Chillbrojams: The Harrison and Andrew Show, Tues 8-9 am