May 5 2015 07:04 PM

Band pairs cool visuals with guitar-heavy rock tunes


The Palace Ballroom
The Palace Ballroom (Self-released)

Album sales have been on a steady decline for about a decade now, and the uptick in users of music streaming services like Spotify has all but signaled the end of the physical album as the primary medium for new music. But while Spotify has 60 million users—an impressive number by any measure—it's still the David to YouTube's Goliath, which boasts one billion users and an album-stream feature of its own.

The Palace Ballroom must have done their homework before working on their new self-titled album, because each of the songs on the album comes accompanied by a video, each one a different visual interpretation of the music. And they're pretty entertaining ones at that. I'm particularly partial to "Night Terrors," which features some Thunderbirds-style marionettes traveling around the world in a cardboard box. Some are simpler, like the portable-cam performance on "Let It Ride," or the night-driving vibe in "Descender," but each one is a strong match to the music itself.

Without the visuals, the album doesn't quite have the same immediate dazzle (puppets have a way of making anything more interesting), but it's nonetheless a solid collection of riff-heavy, indie-rock songs that lean heavier on rock than indie. And the album has its share of highlights. "The Catalyst" is moody and melodic, built on a foundation of whirring organ and jangly guitars. "Let It Ride" explodes with heavy guitars and disco beats, pushing the band's hard-rock sound into more danceable territory. And the cool, low-key "Descender" has a slow-burning groove not unlike Spoon's best moments.

Not every track on The Palace Ballroom's self-titled album is a winner, though I'd be hesitant to call any of them bad. It's mostly that some of them feel indistinguishable from one another, or for that matter, modern alt-rock radio fodder ("Brass Tacks" could be mistaken for new Death Cab for Cutie, save for the vocals). But a few less immediately inspiring songs can be forgiven, especially when they're not the norm. And reinventing the wheel isn't always necessary for making an enjoyable album, which this mostly is. I might not always buy the sensitive-guy rock that The Palace Ballroom delve into, but when they stick to making loud rock 'n' roll, I'm all ears.

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