There’s a longstanding stigma associated with bands who are “too musically talented”, however dubious it may be. The catchphrases associated with genres known for these habits usually go: Prog-rock bands show off, jam bands noodle, classical music is too boring, and jazz is too insular (and also boring). Conveyor manages to slip through the cracks of these labels and, for the most part, use their chops to make the kind of lush, byzantine indie pop that challenges the stigma more than it reinforces them. They are cocksure in their songwriting in ways that would make Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective blush, and even though the album’s dead-ends become frustrating, it’s a maze worth getting lost in.
The “Grizzly Collective” reference point is a good jumping-off point for Conveyor if you’d like a springboard. Their production retains the small-room sound of Brooklyn bedroom recordings but leaves enough room for the music to burst out in all directions with layers of harmonies, hair-pin time-signature changes, and multi-sectional songs. That bricolage can make it easy to see the cracks, but more often than not the band shellacs their sound not with the go-to reverb, but with precocious songwriting.
“Mukraker” is one example when the brains behind Conveyor’s music theory are hidden behind a wonderful pop melody and lyrics. It’s subtle, pretty, and floats along with economy without telegraphing its intent. The more up-tempo “Mane” never slides into the cheeky, and the sequence of “Reach” through “Right Sleep” in the middle of the album show the band’s strength in playing ambient spaces that let the record move out of the head and into the dark forest.
It’s that cheeky part of Conveyer that slows the album down. Songs like “Short Hair” with its clever chorus (“You had short hair/ But you waited too long”) don’t mix well with how overstuffed the music is. As is the case with “Mom Talk”, which apes the tempo and feel of “America” from West Side Story in a way that lands just outside the world the band tries to make. Both songs are fun — but set against the hemiolas and mixed-meters and stacked chords it’s just too much.
This hubris aside, Conveyor’s debut is confident, intricate, and honest — unique in its ability to stand out from so many bedroom acts by putting the focus on their music-geek compositions, while retaining mood and emotion throughout.
Essential Tracks: “Mukraker”, “Right Sleep” “Reach”