Island, 2016

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


I’ve got a theory that the music you first fell in love with when you began listening to music imprints on you, forming the basis for the artists you’ll love in the future – which is why I will forever have a soft spot for the Garden State soundtrack and soaring, plaintive indie rock that sounds like it could be curated by Zach Braff.

And that’s exactly the sound of this debut EP from BANNERS, also known as Michael Joseph Nelson from Liverpool. Produced and written with Stephen Kozmeniuk (Madonna, Kendrick Lamar), the BANNERS sound is reminiscent of Snow Patrol or early Coldplay, before the bloat and excess: straightforward love songs that wear their heart on their sleeve, with anthemic choruses and Nelson’s angelic vocals. For a disc that clocks in at just under twenty minutes, nearly every song here could standout as a single release (and indeed, three of these songs already have been, working their way up the US and Canadian Rock charts). my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

First single “Start A Riot” establishes the BANNERS vibe, playing with loud-and-soft dynamics and making big, declarative lyrical statements about going to the ends of the world for love: “If your world falls apart, I’d start a riot / If night falls in your heart, I’d light the fire,” Nelson proclaims, and somehow, this song just peers over the edge into cheesiness without falling over. The vocals are just so earnest, padded by gently swelling strings and warm harmonies, and I can’t help but be won over.

“Shine A Light” is equally anthemic, launching out as soft, falsetto-sung piano ballad before transforming into a stadium rocker, filled out with urgently jangling guitars and cascading drums that swirl around Nelson’s commanding voice. “Gold Dust” is another well-crafted pop song, energetic and catchy, while “Ghosts” slows the whole thing down to a gentle ballad, finding Nelson doing his best Chris Martin impression. The lyrics are a little spare, which is something of a knock for this whole batch of songs, but it becomes most noticeable when the instrumentation isn’t full enough to bolster the flimsiness of sentiment. Closer “Back When We Had Nothing” suffers a bit from sounding too generic, making the EP stumble towards its conclusion.

The BANNERS sound may be one you’ve heard before, but Michael Joseph Nelson is nevertheless skilled at crafting solid, stick-with-you indie rock songs. I’m skeptical at how effective a full-length disc would be, but I’m willing to give BANNERS a chance based on this handful of pleasant and lovely tracks.

Rating: B

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