Oregon duo The Helio Sequence are over a decade into their career, carefully crafting intimate tunes that seem to be enduring in most people’s record collection, and hearts as well. On their fifth full length, Negotiations, there are some stunningly brilliant moments of pop, though their intimate approach often heads in only one direction, which may (or may not) wear down listeners come the end of the record.
Coming out of the gate, The Helio Sequence clearly have lofty intentions. “One More Time” has a vocal that rises almost immediately after its introduction, but a slight change in the pitch provides a different direction. All the while, the guitar rings in the far background of the song, and the drums provide a perfect pace. Negotiations continues to climb higher towards perfection with “October,” utilizing a soft vocal introduction, before it playfully turns you on your ear with the “go go go, if you wanna go” refrain. Each time I listen to this track, I swear it continues to warm me, making it one of my favorite tracks from the duo. But, while the opening segment is rock solid, it peaks out here, unfortunately.
There’s definitely a noisier approach to the duo’s craftsmanship as the record proceeds, using bits of feedback on tracks like “When the Shadow Falls” or a heavier bit of emotion on “Hall of Mirrors.” Both songs are interesting to a certain extent, but their power is diminished by the album’s opening moments, which will still remain in most listeners heads. Perhaps it’s not the most apropos conversation to have, but I feel like the rehearsal or studio time falls short on the latter half; it just doesn’t quite fit with the beautiful moments that came in early on Negotiations.
Yet, despite some mild pitfalls, there’s also an interesting mix of more traditional folk-influenced tunes that one could consider winning efforts, such as “Harvester of Souls” or “December.” The former track is definitely a quieter track, mostly revolving around vocals and carefully picked guitar, with hints of atmospheric accompaniment use to provide depth. On the latter of the two songs, the band tries to remain quiet to a certain extent, but they can’t seem to escape the formulaic approach that seeps through your stereos as you listen to The Helio Sequence.
I’m not going to lie; I quite like this record. It comes to me at the perfect time of the year, with a slight change in the weather, and a slight change in what I plan on listening to during my days. That being said, the more I listen to Negotiations, the more it has a tendency to blend into the background as I play it from start to finish. You’ll find exceptional highs, especially near the beginning, and you’ll find some that fall short, but it’s very much a record by The Helio Sequence in sound and scope; I think that’s just enough to please the fans of the group.
Download:The Helio Sequence – Hall of Mirrors [MP3]
Negotiations is out now via Sub Pop.