Hailing from Chapel Hill, NC, The Honored Guests first formed back in 2003 and released their uniquely titled first album, Iawokeinacitysleep, in 2004. According to the information that I've found on the band, it made a huge splash on college radio all across the country. Since I haven't been a college student in quite some time (I'm currently a Graduate student, but that hardly qualifies me as a college student - no dorm parties or visiting college bars with a fake ID) I'll admit that I didn't hear it but being a guy who looks at a pint of Guinness as half full (another reason I'm not a college student - no pitchers of Labatt's Blue for me), I'll believe the hype and move on from there.
Fast forward from their debut in 2004 to May of 2006, when the band released their second album, Tastes Change. Then, FAST fast forward to last week when I first got a chance to listen to it.
Tastes Change sort of drifts in to focus with the first short cut, The Race is Long, slowly building up into a dreamy trancelike state that eases you into the album, starting out with the words, "Take your time... ." From this gauzy tune the Honored Guests float us into track two, Say You Will (offered below), which takes off like a bullet. The song presents some dramatic tempo shifts, getting you moving, and then alternately backing off. It also fronts some vocals by Russell Baggett, lead vocalist, that are twisted and altered very reminiscent of Bono in U2's song Zoo Station. The pace slows down for the next few tracks into the band's seemingly natural flow, although the band loves to play with Russell's voice in quite a few of the songs.
A little over half way through the album, one comes across an instrumental track, Boxing Gloves, fairly rare in these days, but certainly welcome. Following that a track that builds up the be one of the biggest sounding of the album and also has my favorite title of the album: If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home By Now. It reminds me of my time living in Boston and the large billboard in front of the condos at the end of Storrow Drive with those exact words. Notice I say biggest sounding, by which I don't mean loud.
The album ends with a song that feels like a melding of much of its parts. It Takes A Lot Of Looking, the final cut, starts off very in a very ethereal sort of mood, building up volume over a few minutes, and then grooves in and out of the Guests' sound. Its intensity builds up to increasingly higher crescendos and eventually those crescendos give way to silence, and then after a few quiet seconds, the album ends with an instrumental coda.
So what is the Guests' sound you might ask? The group doesn't use any odd instrumentation to try and hide behind other than an odd glockenspiel here and there (but hey, who isn't using a glockenspiel these days?!?!); most of it is fairly straight forward guitar, bass, and drums. That's not to say it's formulaic though - the group just prefers to stick to the meat and potatoes but is skilled enough to spice them up. The album as a whole has a mellow feel to it that pulls you in and carries you along. I don't want to imply that the whole affair puts you to sleep, rather it's a languid journey (in the dreamy and delicate sense) from beginning to end.
Experience the tracks below, pick up their last album Tastes Change, and then be prepared for their next album, which they're in the studio now working on and is tentatively scheduled to be released in the fall.
The Honored Guests - Say You Will : Tastes Change
The Honored Guests - Summer Snow : Tastes Change
and one from their debut album...
The Honored Guests - Postmarked : iawokeinacityasleep