The Helio Sequence – Keep Your Eyes Ahead

Brandon Summers, the crooner behind Sub Pop’s The Helio Sequence, couldn’t have been more pleased with the direction that his life was headed in. His band, which includes his best friend since middle school, Benjamin Weikel, had released an impressive synth-rock album titled Love and Distance, and hit the road, touring the States and the U.K., sharing the States with the like of Blonde Redhead, Modest Mouse, Kings of Leon, and Secret Machines.

Life was really quite good. Then suddenly and without warning everything changed. Summers hit a brick wall at a speed that would kill most. His vocal chords had become damaged, thanks to the extreme unrest from extensive tours dates. Halfway through the first collection of dates he misplaced his voice completely. Staying the course, The Helio Sequence finished the tours. In order to secure a voice for the shows, Summers refrained from speaking off stage. Finally, Summers was informed to rest his vocals for at least two months, or risk losing his voice permanently.

Refusing to let his band’s achievements slip away, Summers got proactive. He began doing daily vocal workouts to strengthen his abilities and insure that his talents not vanish. He also gave up drinking and began eating healthy. The result of these changes are noticeable in the differences between The Helio Sequence’s releases. Not only does Summers’ voice sound stronger on Keep Your Eyes Ahead, he appears more confident about his abilities to use it. This bodes well for he and his band.

The tracks on Keep Your Eyes Ahead range from sounding like Ryan Adams or Willie Nelson, with a honest and simple singer songwriter style, bordering on country without the annoyance country songs, to the independent charm of Decibully, and label mates Band of Horses or Rogue Wave. Hell, if you dig deep enough you can even find Atom and His Package synth-pop riffs hidden beneath Bob Dylan-like songwriting. The Helio Sequence seems to have written more of a jukebox than an album as they seem to flip-flop from alt. country to electro-pop every other song.

Opening with “Lately,” a song in which Summers confesses that he has in fact moved on from a former relationship. Featuring a Dinosaur Jr. hook and a wall of sound writing structure, the emotion of the lyrics and the chaos of the electronic noise in the back ground seem to capture the confusion of the moments in the song. Keep Your Eyes Ahead quickly changes by featuring “Can’t Say No,” a song that easily could have been featured on Tegan and Sara‘s The Con and You Can Come to Me, a Postal Service-like song feature Bob Dylan friendly vocals. They then switch back to alt. country, with “Shed Your Love,” a song that reminds me of a brilliant but completely underrated Canadian band, Blue Rodeo. These changes continue through the album, managing to keep listeners wondering which cut will come next. All tracks feature a state of solitude and emotion that can only be captured following a period in which months of silence have been force on you. Summers’ solitude is real, which sets him heads above most artists. This is never more true than on “Shed Your Love,” the prime cut of this album of wonderful songs.

Look for the The Helio Sequence’s Keep Your Eyes Ahead in stores today, Janurary 29th, 2008 on Subpop Records.

Links:
Subpop Records
The Helio Sequence’s Website
The Helio Sequence’s Myspace

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