Typically at this time of year, numerous music critics will unleash their Top Ten Albums list upon you. One album that deserves to be on everyone’s list, but I pretty much guarantee isn’t there, is It Culls You, the second album from The Envy Corps. Who are The Envy Corps you ask? They are, quite simply, the best band you’ve never heard of.
The Ames, Iowa quartet (seriously, they’re from Iowa) released their major label debut, Dwell, in 2008. As is typical in a major label situation where the powers that be don’t know how to promote a great album (don’t even get me started on the colossal mishandling of Raphael Saadiq’s Instant Vintage), they completely dropped the ball and the album was only released digitally in the States. Now free from their major label chains, the group released It Culls You on their own label in October. Without the aid of a large marketing/promotion/publicity machine behind them (not that the machine was working for them in the first place), It Culls You has been criminally overlooked. In short, this album should be filed under ALBUMS YOU SHOULD BE LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW.
It’s very rare when listening to an album, you realize 28 seconds in that you’re listening to something remarkable. Such is the case with the opening track “Make It Stop” when a sparse what-was-that? bass line joins the opening 12/8 drum beat. By the time the listener is about to settle into the verse-chorus form of the song, a harmonic choir, sounding like an outtake from the Pet Sounds box set, comes out of nowhere. Just as this musical monkey wrench builds into what you think is the climax of the song, another major shift occurs and the song ends with an interpolation of The Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes For You.” And that’s just the first song.
This sets the stage for the rest of the album. Comparable to bands like Supergrass and Radiohead before them, they’re unafraid to go anywhere musically and instead go everywhere. And yes, they are heavily influenced by Radiohead to the point where you feel that if Radiohead had put out an album between The Bends and OK Computer, it would sound like It Culls You. But It Culls You is capable of standing on its own merits, thanks to impressively strong songwriting and arrangements.
Take “Ms. Hospital Corners,” a driving, straight-ahead rocker with such a basic riff (the best riffs are the most basic ones) you wonder why this song isn’t on heavy rotation on every rock station in the country. It also contains a keyboard part that would make any prog rocker happy. The dreaminess of “Give It (All) Up” is followed by the funky “Command+Q” (Radiohead was never this funky – although they came close with “The National Anthem.”) which contains a great synthesizer part towards the end of the song. Again, musical variety is key throughout the album and I’m sure if you asked the band members (vocalist Luke Pettipoole, guitarist Brandon Darner, Micah Natera (on synthesizer and guitar) and drummer Scott Yoshimura) what artists influenced them, the list would be a mile long.
The only downside to the musical diversions is as the album progresses, the listener starts to expect the unexpected. Without fail, this happens in each song. But notes aren’t added just for the sake of adding notes. You can tell that every arrangement, every hi-hat hit, every note that was recorded onto this album was painfully examined. In this day and age of basic bands who play standard chord progressions, zero counter melodies and can barely come up with a decent hook, this is tremendously refreshing to hear.
So do yourself a favor and seek out The Envy Corps’ It Culls You and their 2008 release Dwell. Without a doubt, they will become your new favorite band.
It Culls You – Tracklisting
Make It Stop
Ms. Hospital Corners
Give It (All) Up
Palace On Stilts
In the Summer
Everyone’s Trying To Find You
Fools (How I Survived You & Even Laughed)
Fools, Pt. II (Bow)
For more information on The Envy Corps, go to http://www.theenvycorps.com.