Some Trees (Merrit Moon) (2009)
Coming from the critically acclaimed debut album, Why There Are Mountains, ‘Some Trees’ is quite possibly the rawest material this band has created in its short tenure. The hooks bring to mind Weezer and Dinosaur Jr., yet Joseph D’Agostino’s vocals make it feel like a lost David Bowie song. Oh well; Cymbals Eat Guitars does the sound some serious justice.
Keep Me Waiting (2011)
Where the debut prided itself on raw energy, the follow-up, Lenses Alien, brings out a stranger, darker side of the band. ‘Keep Me Waiting’ in particular sounds like Hüsker Dü’s weirdo pop cousin. It’s incredibly bare bones and straightforward, but it also offers some proto-emo musical stylings in a very left-field way.
Cymbals Eat Guitars’s earlier work covers a wide range of sounds and emotions, but every one of those scattered aspects converge into one perfectly crafted, deeply emotional song on the excellent third LP, LOSE. ‘Warning’ charges along in punk fashion, yet the lyrics are so heart-on-sleeve and vulnerable it all culminates in a gripping, expertly executed song of self-reflection.
Definite Darkness (2011)
This song just screams ’90s alt rock. D’Agostino’s vocals jump sporadically from mumbles to desperate yelps throughout; the keyboard breaks with a heavily harmonized hook mid-song, and it all sounds like a modern re-working of ‘Losing a Whole Year.’
Like Blood Does (2009)
Remember those bleak, droning epics Modest Mouse used to pen all the time in the This Is A Long Drive and Lonesome Crowded West days? If that doesn’t ring a bell, ‘Like Blood Does’ will remind you. However, in Cymbals Eat Guitars fashion, the band takes this convention and warps it into something simultaneously uglier and more beautiful; practically every noise that can be produced on a guitar is made by the last three minutes.
Sure, ‘Like Blood Does’ is spacey, but it doesn’t even begin to touch ‘Laramie.’ Over the course of the song’s eight minutes, every instrument blends together in an uncanny, cohesive mass of sound. It becomes almost impossible to tell where the keyboard ends and guitars and bass begin. It’s a booming glacier of psychedelia, to say the least.
Secret Family (2011)
If any song shows off the band’s darker inclinations, this is it. Heavy, jagged riffs break in and out of spaced-out, diminished melodies. The song is difficult to follow, and that’s what makes it so good! Its three-and-a-half minutes go by really, really quickly.
Another Tunguska (2011)
‘Another Tunguska’ is a really intense, low-in-the-dirt kind of track. The intro definitely has the tiniest hint of country, but it really blooms to life in the catchy vocal melody and the song’s overall insistence on ending not in a bang, but a whimper. Makes all the difference.
This song feels like the soundtrack to some kind of ’80s neo-noir movie, with riffs that would almost fit in a Journey song. Once again, D’Agostino’s unique vocals and reflective lyricism give the song a brilliant pop sheen that complements the synth’s melodies. Every chorus seems to summon ‘Just Like Heaven.’ Lovely.
Of all the intense emotions D’Agostino navigates through the Cymbals Eat Guitars catalog, ‘Jackson’ expresses the most thoughtful and heartbreaking. The opener to LOSE, the song features D’Agostino’s musings on the loss of one of his closest friends, the main theme of the outstanding LP. Focusing on a specific bad day and a conflict with this friend at Jackson, New Jersey‘s Six Flags, D’Agostino looks back on this time in a melancholic reverie, cherishing a moment he will never have again: ‘Now I dream in color of your face, and the coast in your mirror shades, only feel relief when I’m back at home, falling forward alone.’ All the while, the song ramps up the intensity as the guitar breaks into a wild, distorted solo and the rhythm section brings down the roof. Who knew a topic so utterly heart-wrenching could sound this good?
By Josh Rau
Josh is a media studies student at the University of San Francisco. When he’s not working or writing essays, he’s roaming new and unfamiliar streets in his own world between his headphones, listening to as much new music as possible. That, or he’s just playing it himself and scrolling through Tumblr.