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Wow: the three letters that best describe this ON AN ON album debut, Give In. The remaints of Chicago indie band Scattered Trees teamed up with Broken Social Scene and Los Campesinos! producer Dave Newfield and put together a beautiful yet melancholy indie rock album–in three weeks. The album’s theme is coping with death and takes the listener through an emotional journey.
The newfound band took more creative liberties than their more polished Scattered Trees work, and in turn created something much more raw and engaging. Nate Eisland’s combination of provocative songwriting and haunting vocals bring this album to life despite a ghostly undertone.
The opening track, “Ghosts,” is so intricately strung together with distorted drum machines, reverbed synth, and explosive guitar melodies. The song touches on the subject of overcoming death. Eisland’s eerie vocals join in, “There are spirits coming to find me, they’re not stopping until it’s done, and I can feel it taking over me.” The band takes on heavy subjects while also giving you something you can bob your head to.
“Every Song” sounds a bit more uplifting but still carries the haunted tone of the album. The essential chorus is Eisland chanting “Take me out of here.” The track is a solid representation of Eisland’s vocal talent. The instrumentation is atmospheric and catchy.
About ten minutes into the album, “The Hunter” throws the listener off starting out with intense Daft Punk-esque auto-tuned vocals. It kicks in with rocking drums and synth and takes you on a fun journey of a grim story of a hunter. The chorus features the same auto-tuned vocals but works well with the playfulness of the song.
“Bad Mythology” has much more electronic production put into it. It also features piercing guitars and stabbing drums. It is a very intense song that does not feature the same poppy contrast as most of the tracks.
The seven minute closing track “I Wanted to Say More” is very haunting. It touches on the incomplete feelings when someone in your life pass away unexpectedly. The track is very slow, with acoustic guitar plucking and moody, ambient synths. A drowning piano comes in and adds to the emotional intensity of the album. It certainly does not carry the same vibe as “Ghosts” or “Every Song”, which are much more entertaining. “I Wanted to Say More” stops you in your tracks and makes you think.
Give In is a huge undertaking for a recently split up band, and it did not cease to impress. They cleaned the slate of Scattered Trees and went for something completely new and emotionally heavy. Eisland had a lot on his mind and proved to be a great songwriter. Dave Newfield continues to take great musicians and make them better with his production skills. This album that was somehow put together in three weeks has a lot to offer to indie junkies and people who like playful music with depth. ON AN ON’s next album should be just as great as their debut.