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Ending People

Fill Your Lungs EP

[Cash Cow; 2012]

By ; November 2, 2012 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Will there ever come a time when The Cure or The Cocteau Twins stop being reference points for every upcoming new wave/dark jangle pop band? With the upswing this year (the past few years really) of 80’s pop acclimation, it was just a matter of time before they showed up and in overwhelming numbers. The synth and dream pop allure drew artists such as Twin Shadow, Frankie Rose, and DIIV into releasing some of the most memorable records of the year, and now we can add Denver-based jangle merchants Ending People to the long list of 80’s music paramours. Comprised of members/ex-members from Crooked Fingers, Phosphorescent, and Hearts of Palm, Ending People manage to wring out a unique perspective in this crowded musical marketplace. By adding touches of old-school rhythm and a sense of restless creativity churning just under the surface of these songs, and with Erin Roberts’ distinctive vocals hovering ethereally over the tracks, their debut EP Fill Your Lungs caters to those who thrive on the reclamation of musical history, as well as those who are anxious to hear the evolution of that same history.

But Fill Your Lungs feels less like the cobbling together of the band’s influences and more like the natural progression of those influences as filtered through the intervening years of indie rock. Similar in terms to how Frankie Rose filtered pre-90’s Slumberland jangle pop through late-00’s indie rock and managed to carve out her own personal corner in the genre, Ending People are able to take what bands like The Cure and The Cocteau Twins began back in the 80’s and turn it into something original. But just because we can immediately spot the musical reference points doesn’t mean that the music is without merit, quite the opposite actually.

The band glides through these six tracks of darkwave dream pop with an ease that belies their superficial familiarity. “Beat of My Heart” chimes and layers rows of spangled guitars around a snapped snare beat that grows in momentum as each trebly note ripples out from the speakers.  And while Echo and the Bunnymen may be its most immediate musical reference, it’s also not entirely unfair to say that the song shares more than a slight resemblance to the clanging melodicism of The Chameleons or The Jesus and Mary Chain. At times, Fill Your Lungs can seem to be a laundry list of 80’s pop/rock touchstones, which makes the songs even more resonant as the band never fails to live up to these obviously personal musical influences.

But not content to simply rely on our own fond memories of a particular band’s sound or the associations therein to engender some kind of common ground with their audience, Ending People develop this dream pop/jangle rock aesthetic until it shimmers and seems to take on a life of its own. The elastic bass that backs the synth-drenched “Tiny Little Army” curls its way between Roberts’ insistent vocals and the taut drumming of Tim Hussman and seems to almost joyously animate as it flits between old-school funk and a more pop-conscious rhythm base. “I’m Not Coming Back” bounces a ringing beat against shimmering synths and an almost tangible sense of wistful nostalgia to fashion a web of Cabaret Voltaire-esque pop guided by Hussman’s hushed vocals. Borrowing aspects of electro-pop and reflective shoegaze, the track combines the slick production of the former with the gauze-y construction of the latter to great effect.

“Amazing Grace” feels dense and tightly wound, ready to split open at the slightest touch and does so with a little gentle coaxing from Roberts. The song expands and collapses around its verse-chorus structure, with tremulous guitars threading through the propulsive beat, daring you to miss a step. “Mouthful” builds itself around a simple beat—tinny guitars streaking across the track—until breaking out into a full-bore U2 rocker ripped straight from The Unforgettable FireFill Your Lungs leaves us hanging, mouth open, as the surging Robert Smith-Kevin Shields hybrid slow burn of “Pretender Pt. 1,” with its swells of distortion and hazy vocals, buries the listener in a wash of My Bloody Valentine-lite guitar theatrics but manages not to disappoint despite the heavy pedigree it clings to.

But you’ve heard this all before. And if you are familiar with any of the bands name-checked here, then you’re sure to know where you stand with Fill Your Lungs, possibly even before hearing a single note. So why not just dig out your worn copy of Psychocandy or Heaven or Las Vegas and set a needle to it?  Well, you’re more than welcome to I guess (sounds like a great idea actually) but you’d be missing out on an album that works wonders despite its noticeable debt to the genres from which it grew. Ending People coax something special, something reverent even, out of the tracks spread out across this EP. As we’ve heard dozens of times this year, the adulation held for 80’s pop can only take a band so far if there isn’t something substantive already there to build everything upon. Unfortunately for us though, the success of Fill Your Lungs only makes the wait for their proper full-length that much more difficult to bear.


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