Lost At Sea

Exceptional Edward

Champion Of The Arts, 2008


REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


When I popped in this disc, the full-length debut from Columbus, Ohio indie-rockers Exceptional Edward, I thought I had put in Death Cab For Cutie’s Plans or Transatlanticism (a.k.a. flawless Death Cab, pre-this year’s spotty Narrow Stairs). It’s uncanny, really, how much vocalist Jason Turner sounds like Ben Gibbard; his voice, like Gibbard’s, is high, sweet, soaring, though admittedly Turner sometimes sounds a little less in control than his predecessor. The instrumentation, too, is all irresistible hooks and sparkling guitars, lovely melodies that lodge in your mind à la a more intimate, fresh spin on U2 or Coldplay. There’s still an intriguing roughness to this batch of eleven tracks, be it in the fuzzy guitars or Turner’s sometimes hesitant croon, which sets the still relatively new group apart from the big-label slickness that’s recently hit my beloved Death Cab.

If it’s the Death Cab card that pulled me in, it’s the lyrics that kept me there. At once sharply wrought and sometimes surreal, for the most part the songs here have the depth and range of a band with twice Exceptional Edward’s longevity (the group released a self-produced EP in 2006 before this disc).

Opener “Change My Mind” is simple yet evocative, launching out with an my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Arcade Fire-esque organ before laying on a shimmering guitar riff and introducing an out-of-sorts Turner singing about “a city filled with light / Though the brightness hurt my eyes / I was still okay.” Swerving through an encounter with a man taller than the trees, Turner finally walks up into the sun -- “And I was not the only one who was headed home,” he says as the low-key guitars continue percolating in the background. It’s not as hooky as later single “Good People,” but it sets up the slow-burn part of Exceptional Edward’s sound.

Next up “Places And Faces” feels too vague after the imagery of the opener, and the track doesn’t really go anywhere despite a nice, nimble guitar interlude from Dan Gillis. Still, it’s a pretty unsatisfying lead-in to one of Lost At Sea’s standouts, “The Sea Captain.” Starting out with a guitar line that’s simultaneously jittery and almost hypnotic, this track is a little ominous, strangely catchy, and altogether excellent. Turner’s deeper, more confident vocals and the seamless transition from the brooding intro that tells the story of a lonely, aimless sea captain following the stars to a driving, powerful anthem. “I have to keep this ship afloat,” Turner proclaims against a backdrop of chugging drums and blossoming melodies, and it’s stunning and resilient -- check this out, if nothing else.

Single “Never Come Down” is a more toned-down, thoughtful affair, just light guitars and delicate accompanying piano on this no-frills, crisply-told tale of glamorous circus life with the achingly bare refrain, “But I’ll never come down.” It’s tough to say it’s representative of the Exceptional Edward sound, since “Good People” suddenly has vintage Oasis written all over it, with big, ringing guitars and Brian Gillis pounding away on the drums (although I’m pretty sure Oasis never penned this sensitive an anthem about lepers and searching  desperately for a savior.)

From West Coast disillusion that swiftly morphs into a gorgeous, honest ballad about a not-right love (“All we do is drink our dreams…I see each day fading into another / Sorry I can’t give you more”) on “About A Boy” to the sunny rhythms and hopeful sentiment of “Goodbye” to the double-punch of full, soaring vocals and guitars on “A Night Like This” and “Home,” it’s tough to find a track on Lost At Sea that isn’t, well, exceptional. I’m only a few listens in to this disc and I’m already blown away. This is what Death Cab’s last album should have sounded like, but since they missed the boat it seems time to hand the wheel over to Exceptional Edward, who have managed to find their way beautifully in this Sea.

Rating: A-

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© 2008 Melanie Love and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Champion Of The Arts, and is used for informational purposes only.