AbsentStar
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AbsentStar

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"Absentstar Sea Trials - a Sea Worthy Review"

Absentstar - Sea Trials Review
Sea worthy debut.
by Chad Grischow
April 18, 2008 - The Chicago-based quintet, Absentstar is equal parts towering, brash vocals and full-bodied rock, sounding as if they have been playing together for a decade. Front man Derek Ingersoll's dramatic vocal presence would be overbearing, in a The Calling sort of way, if it were not for the band's ability to write brilliantly melodic tunes. Instead, he sounds right at home in the middle of the twin-guitar based bed of rock the band cranks out.

Classic power ballad, "Don't Lock Me Out" sounds like a glorious throwback to early eighties rockers like Journey, complete with bellowing hopeful hook and glossy guitar solo. Most of the album sounds grounded with current pop-rock roots, though Ingersoll's commanding tone recalls the more dramatic front men of decades ago. They attempt to dirty up their best asset on "Give In To Me", by distorting the vocals. It is a shame, as they waste the edgier riffs and fantastic hook on a botched sonic experiment. They go the opposite direction on gooey ballad "If What You Mean Is Harm" by leaning too heavily on the vocals, where the band kicks up their feet for a lackadaisical outing, blandly pushing their way through the soaring hook.

The band is at their best when clicking on all cylinders, as on the gritty piano-laced bluesy stomp of "Quietly Conceited"; where Ingersoll passionately asks, "So you gonna save us all? / So you gonna take the fall for choices that I made?" The guitars roar to life, spinning around the tumbling beat and distant keyboard with precision, on "Half Life", warning against dwelling on the past. Riffs reverberate through "For God's Sakes" like frayed twigs sticking out of a bird nest, creating a fantastic jagged contrast to Ingersoll's melodic vocals.

A little thinner musically, "A Year From Now" succeeds on the strength of its toe-tapping drive and typically melodic hook, "Tell me that a year from now it won't be / Just another day and counting / Every moment past, with nothing here to show". They run out of steam near the end, collapsing into a heap of overdramatic vocals and obnoxious blipping organ on bland "For The Moment" and weak, overstuffed production with string-laced ballad "All Is Forgotten". The missteps and debut albums go together hand in hand, but they thankfully show up long after you will have fallen for the band's charms.

Sea Trials is a solid debut that only reaches a boil occasionally, but consistently holds a solid simmer of ear-pleasing hooks, leaving you interested in where Absentstar will go next.
- IGN


"Absentstar Review"

Absentstar have just released their major label debut titled Sea Trials and it certainly has a good shot at reaping the same commercially successful kudos that bands like Snow Patrol, Keane or even Coldplay have achieved in years past. They have a knack for pulling off the epic dynamic bursts of sound that end up attracting attention and earning placement on major movie soundtracks. - Yahoo! Music


"Absentstar: Where We Begin Review"


Oh Absentstar, you’ve done it again. You’ve created the finest form of pop/rock and ingrained the most superb melodies and hooks in my head. The only thing crazier than your ability for writing a catchy tune is the fact that you haven’t dominated top forty radio, but all in due time I suppose. Where We Begin is Absentstar’s sophomore album following their debut Sea Trials. Since that time the band has abandoned their label, and went out on their own, and like many bands who have done the same, the crew believes that it has been a rewarding experience, and according to the albums title, is a new beginning.

On their debut they compiled a healthy mix of rockers and ballads, and for their follow up they continus to follow the same formula. However, this time around it’s clear that the band is improving, and the improvement is completely audible in the music. The musicianship is tight, and all the pieces fit together to make a slew of strong tracks. They’re not venturing over any new ground, but they clearly have a strong knowledge of what makes pop/rock rewarding. Songs like “(Don’t You Think) We Owe it to Ourselves” and “Education” deliver big powerful choruses begging to be sung. Then there are the more subtle ballads which may not be as strong as the rockers, but still hold their own. As a whole, the songwriting is stellar.

Where We Begin sounds like a touch up of their debut Sea Trials. Musically it’s not all that different, but sometimes much of the art out there just needs a little touching up to display its vibrant colors, and Where We Begin is glowing. It catches your attention upon first listen, and doesn’t let go. Hell, I’m trying to review other albums and I’m still singing these songs in my head...

Grade: A- - Imagine Echoes


"New from Absentstar - Don't You Think We Owe It To Ourselves?"

Just over a year ago I managed to work myself into a bit of a frenzy over the sounds I was hearing from a new band, Absentstar. I got my first listen in very early 2008 with their lead off single, "For God Sakes". I was instantly hooked. I hadn't heard anyone pull off alt-pop so well since Radford's Sleepwalker back in 2004.

True (and good) alt-pop seems to be damn near impossible to pull off for one reason or another. Bands trying to fit in the genre seem to fall on their faces by either failing to write lyrics that are catchy enough to really be "pop" or they take it too far and write damn-near unlistenable songs that are just too poppy. For every one of the band that manages to pull it off, 100 miss by an inch. In this alt-pop, missing by an inch is missing by a mile.

Sadly enough, missing by 10 miles doesn't mean much to radio-execs. Otherwise you'd all have heard of Absentstar instead of Katy Perry.

Every once in a while you'll find a band like Dishwalla, Radford, Flickerstick - and now Absentstar - that is able to pull off alt-pop without making you skip a track because it's too overblown or cringe when the 100th repeat of the chorus comes on. It's a fine line, but right now these boys are about the only ones walking it.

in the end, I suppose it's all a matter of choice. I'm probably more picky about my alt-pop than most since the genre has been all but destroyed by top-40 radio over the past 10 years. Still though, when a band like Absentstar comes along it gives me reason to have hope.

After the release of 2008's Sea Trials, I assumed the boys in Absentstar would follow the usual path - tour like hell, hope and pray for a big break on the radio and release another album in 2011, about 3 years after their debut. Luckily enough for me, 2011 is coming in July of 2009 in the form of their sophomore release Where We Begin.

I have their lead single, "Don't You Think We Owe It To Ourselves" available down below for a listen. If "Don't You Think..." is any indication of the sonic ride they'll be taking us on in July, this will be no kind of sophomore slump. While all the same essential elements are returning, the band feels tighter here than anywhere on Sea Trials. The lyrics are poignant, though they'll sure as hell stick in your head. God knows I've been singing it in the shower each and every day since I first took a gander.

Take a listen. You won't regret it.

- Sell the Lie


Discography

2005 - To All That Buy In - Independent Release

2008 - Sea Trials - Columbia Records/Canvasback Music Release

2009 - Where We Begin - Independent Release

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Bio

A slog, slugfest, or time of their lives....call it what you will. But after spending most of 2006 through 2008 touring across the country and sharing the stage with bands like Good Charlotte, Panic at the Disco, Lifehouse, Third Eye Blind and Coheed and Cambria (and playing for thousands of people along the way) Absentstar was depleted. Sitting backstage before a show at the Nokia Theater in New York City, the band silently took stock of where they had been, and where exactly they wanted to go. Despite the many successes they had experienced, they had not yet risen to their full potential. Absentstar decided what was needed was a new design, a new direction, a new goal. When the last note of the tour was played, the last piece of gear packed into the trailer, Absentstar returned home to Chicago and took a short break to regroup, recharge and plot their course, looking for a new beginning of sorts. Absentstar believed it was time for new songs and a new album, something to inspire audiences. A few songwriting sessions invigorated the band, and in the winter of 2008 they entered the studio to lay down the tracks that would become their third album, entitled "Where We Begin". With fresh minds and ears, the songs they put together would represent feelings, thoughts and experiences from that time on the road; stories that anyone could relate to.

Where We Begin is an album that deals with highs and lows, finding what you want by not running from what you are, and life decisions through hard lessons learned. The songs are lush, filled with what has become Absentstar's signature Brit/American mix of Derek Ingersoll's soaring vocal melodies and Marshall Hanbury Jr's bombastic guitar work. It's an overall sonic package that is referred to as Hi-Fi Indie Rock. The band just believes it's good music without the need of labling and descriptions. The music will define itself to each new set of ears in different ways. It's at once new and inspiring, but also familiar and comfortable, as well as emotive and thought provoking. This album is summed up in Ingersoll's poignant verse, "I'm putting the past behind, and my best foot forward." For Absentstar, Where We Begin truly is where they begin.

View an interview with the band backstage before a sold out show at the Nokia Theater in NYC here:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=Ap7nKwaEyeM

View a live performance of If You Like It here:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=74ZihoM-7KU