Thursday, August 9, 2012

Class of 2012: Baroness - Yellow & Green

I hesitate to say that Baroness is no longer a metal band, but it's safe to say that Yellow & Green is not a metal release.  While it has some moments that rock, this double album reveals an increased focus on melody, songwriting, and singing.

Overall, Yellow is the definite stronger of the two - it's more straightforward and flows better from start to finish.  After the instrumental "Yellow Theme" intro,  Baroness hit the ground running with "Take My Bones Away" and "March to the Sea" - both have big choruses and sound like what I expected a new Baroness record to sound like.  With "Little Things," however, a new Baroness sound kicks in, continuing throughout much of both albums.  The mostly acoustic "Twinkler" reveals something that I never expected a Baroness record to contain - a little Fleet Foxes quality (and yet it works).  But one song on Yellow doesn't work, and that's "Back Where I Belong."  Although certain elements do work, the song as a whole is Yellow's only misstep.  Baroness get back on track with the final two tracks, especially the closer "Eula," which builds to a very strong finish. 

Green's intro, "Green Theme," picks up right where "Eula" left off.  It's an instrumental with an effective quiet-loud quiet-loud dynamic.  "Board Up the House" and "Mtns. (The Crown & Anchor)" follow by keeping the ball rolling.  The former has a big, catchy chorus, and the latter begins with an almost John-Frusciante-Chili-Peppers guitar sound.  But the next two songs, "Foolsong" and "Collapse," never take off or go anywhere.  They're not terrible, but they seem unfinished.  "Psalms Alive" comes alive at about its halfway point and is one of Green's stronger tracks.  The final third of the album finds "The Line Between" and its big, soaring chorus sandwiched between two mellow instrumentals, "Stretchmarker" and "If I Forget Thee, Lowcountry." 

Yellow & Green is quite an evolution from 2009's much-heralded Blue Record.  It's melodic, catchy, and at times sounds nothing like Baroness.  A double album, especially in this day and age, is a bold move for any band, and yet, for the most part, Baroness pulls it off.

Grade: B+  (87.5%)

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