The Envy Corps' 2008 full length "Dwell" goes down in my book as one of the all-time overlooked indie rock albums. It was one of the best albums released that year, but sadly only saw a digital release Stateside, and lost steam in the UK where they were signed to a major label deal, after it was delayed by Vertigo Records. Now the Ames, Iowa quartet are back with their first album since "Dwell" and they've done it again with one of 2011's best releases. "It Culls You" is simply a great album.
I'll get this right out of the way. Yes, good portions of this sound very Radiohead-esque. Luke Pettipoole's voice can even call to mind Thom Yorke in places. Radiohead have influenced countless bands so that is certainly nothing I'm going to hold against The Envy Corps in the originality department. I'd prefer to just focus on the music at hand here, comparisons be damned.
With "It Culls You", The Envy Corps build on the sound of their past work while taking it in new directions, enough so to turn a casual fan into a diehard. It's the sound of a band moving forward, not stagnating. Luke Pettipoole has always had an intriguing voice, capable of being snarly one minute on a heavier track, and sweet the next in his falsetto on a quieter ballad. What stands out here as much as his vocals is his work on the bass. The rhythm section on this album, Pettipoole on the bass and Scott Yoshimura on drums, is amazing. Tracks like "Ms. Hospital Corners", "Dipsomania" and "Command+Q" are downright damn funky, not the first thing that comes to mind from their past work.
The album opens with Yoshimura's beating drum and the crunchy bass of "Make It Stop", a song that switches gears about halfway through with a chorus of "Oooh's" before Brandon Darner and Micah Natera join in on guitars and keyboards for a cigarette lighters in the air, hands waving back and forth finale. Such a fantastic opener sets the tone for the rest of the album.
As nice it is to hear the band explore some new territory, they have also perfected the melodic rock they are best known for. "Give It (All) Up" has a sad, repeated synth line, insistent bass and a subdued, but emotional vocal performance by Pettipoole. "In The Summer" has haunting guitar circling around your head, with strings playing in the background to add to the lovely atmosphere set here. Both songs are nothing short of gorgeous.
The album closes with the 14 minute, two part "Fools". Part one, the over nine minute "Fools (How I Survived You & Even Laughed)" starts out rather laid back, with Pettipoole going in and out of falsetto, while bass, piano and tapping drums quietly back him up. The song explodes near its halfway point into a practically post-rock conclusion, searing, echoed guitars scream while a wordless refrain of "woos" is tailor-made to stick with you long after you're done listening. It's an epic conclusion, with Part II a sparse acoustic piece that adds a thumping electronic drum beat to its final minute.
Sometimes it is difficult to express in words how a particular album makes you feel. "It Culls You" staggered me on the first listen and its brilliance has only grown with each repeated play. It cements their place as one of the best indie rock acts working today. Three albums in and The Envy Corps only continue to get better with each release. That is a difficult task to pull off. This is a band deserving of your attention and an album I can't recommend highly enough.
"It Culls You" is being self-released by The Envy Corps. It was made available for download starting August 26, 2011 via the band's official website. You can also pre-order the physical release off their website which will start shipping October 3, 2011.