Declare A New State!

The Submarines

Nettwerk, 2006

http://www.thesubmarines.com

REVIEW BY: Josh Allen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/30/2010

Who knew that collaborating on an electronic pop album would be a blueprint to mend fences with a past significant other?

That’s exactly the genesis of The Submarines’ 2006 debut, Declare A New State!  As the story goes, music producer John Dragonetti and golden-voiced musician Blake Hazard (the great-granddaughter of F. Scott Fitzgerald) broke up after completing Hazard’s debut solo album, Little Airplane.  The split was a source of inspiration for both artists, and they independently wrote music focused on coping with the challenge of moving on after a romantic relationship.  The two later crossed paths, discovered each others’ music, and their debut album – and eventual marriage (Aww!) – began to flourish.

A happy ending, yes, but the pain and sorrow of breaking up became the sole motif of all ten songs.  It’s not difficult to pinpoint each of the five stages of grief within the album’s aching lyrics, which contrasts beautifully with the deceptively positive key that dominates the music.  In this way, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Declare A New State! suggests an optimistic, light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel attitude for dealing with heartbreak.  After all, notice the album’s title.

Opener “Peace And Hate” hints at the couple’s story (“Said our goodbyes but now we’re taking vows”) and musically sets the tone perfectly, as subdued electronic beats gently mesh with the couple’s vocals until bursting into a powerful chorus.

Far and away the most memorable track, though, is “Brighter Discontent,” which shifts from one dreamy melody to the next, while Hazard recalls moving into a new place after the breakup.  One particular line still haunts me, when she laments, “A breaking heart in an empty apartment / Is the loudest sound I never heard,” after her fresh start is marred by the sight of her ex-lover in the pictures that cover her walls.  Her voice during the song’s bridge is noticeably accompanied by reverberations, perhaps referring to said empty apartment and underscoring her loneliness.

Any of the tracks showcasing Hazard’s hypnotizing voice (“Ready Or Not” and “Darkest Things”) are on a different level than those featuring Dragonetti (“Vote” and “This Conversation”), which seem average by comparison.   “Hope” is especially guilty of dragging a little too much, and it’s at about this point that you begin to tire of feeling sorry for these heartbroken poets.

But while the album’s theme may become monotonous, the music behind the lyrics certainly does not.  Each track seems to subtly try new electronic effects:, enough to keep it fresh for the listener without resorting to completely off-kilter non sequiturs (like Beck, for instance) that wouldn’t fit with the album’s context.  The glowing duet “Modern Inventions,” for instance uses tremolo – applied to both voice and synthesizer – to great effect.  It’s this type of experimentation that will earn Declare A New State! a high play count in your library.

I would probably advise against buying it for your girlfriend for Christmas, though.  Don’t want to send the wrong message.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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