Sleeping At Last
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Sleeping At Last

Wheaton, Illinois, United States

Wheaton, Illinois, United States
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"CMJ "Storyboards" Review"

On Storyboards, the third album by Chicago’s Sleeping At Last, the band forgoes hooks and catchy melodies. They leave behind big grooves and bigger solos. They don’t seem concerned with creating a smash hit or writing an unforgettable line. Instead, they carve out their own musical niche, and the album swings, sways and envelopes with soft melodies and gentle lyricism. Unlike many of their musical contemporaries, Sleeping At Last carry listeners through a musical landscape that is lush and rolling. “So I reached deeper in and pulled my whole world wide open, and for each broken mile, a billion miracles happen at once, in everything,” sings Ryan O’Neal on the album opener and standout track “Porcelain,” best articulating the album’s nature. His almost tragic voice exposes sweeping orchestrations and delicate finger-picking, finding immensity amongst the tiniest sounds.

Sleeping at Last’s associations with the contemporary Christian rock scene make hymnal comparisons too easy and too apt. It’s easy to imagine Storyboards engrossing a Sunday morning service and filling congregants with warmth and emotion. But the comparison is unnecessary. While the religious references are clear, the album’s beauty stands on its own for all to enjoy—regardless of religious affiliation. - CMJ

""Storyboards" Hear/Say review"

Sleeping at Last

Campus Correspondent review by Jim Simmons,
Arizona State University

Sleeping at Last once again demonstrates through the limitless power of music, the ability to shift listeners to another world in enchanting fashion with its latest release, Storyboards. Since its rise to acclaim in 2003 with the release of Ghosts, the duo featuring front man Ryan O’Neal and bassist/keyboardist Dan Perdue has built a solid fan base of music lovers nationwide while touring alongside the likes of Switchfoot, Zwan, Something Corporate and Yellowcard.

Similar to previous Sleeping at Last albums, the current effort once again demonstrates an immense surplus of sounds, including additional string instrumentation, arrangement, and orchestration by violinist Susan Voelz (Poi Dog Pondering), who is among the many great instrumentalists added to the album’s lineup. Storyboards is an impressive album featuring a similar tone of modest and mellow throughout, but accomplishes a greater emotional culmination than past albums.

For the first time O’Neal introduces the ukulele as a primary instrument on songs like “Porcelain” and “Slow & Steady,” two of the album’s most compelling and notable tunes. Other memorable songs include the emotive “Chandeliers,” showcasing a stirring string introduction, along with the artistic “Green Screens,” which poetically illustrates the album’s title. Perhaps the most extraordinary amongst the lineup is “Clockwork,” which features the work of legendary arranger Van Dyke Parks (U2, Rufus Wainwright) and emerges as a truly magical offering similar to a soundtrack of a musical.
Storyboards showcases brilliant songwriting comprised of inventive scores, innovative instrumentation and poetic mastery. The album encompasses the duo’s best work to date and builds anticipation as fans nationwide wait with hopes of experiencing the brilliance live in their respective cities. - hear/

""Storyboards" Absolutepunk Review"

Sleeping at Last- Storyboards
Record Label: Independent
Release Date: July 21, 2009 (Digital), TBD (Physical)

Vocals 9.75
Musicianship 10
Lyrics 10
Production 9.75
Creativity 9.5
Lasting Value 9.5
Reviewer Tilt 10
Final Verdict: 98%

There is a rare occurrence that every music fan desires that only actually happens once in every blue moon. It’s called “the album.” The rarity of the previously mentioned occurrence is what makes music great, and why people like yours truly are so hopelessly obsessed with finding the one. An album that brings goosebumps strewn across your skin. An album that gives you that peaceful serenity. An album that makes other albums just footnotes in its unbelievable presence bellowing loudly over your speakers each and every day until you just can’t anymore in fear of exhausting the material in your brain. Sleeping at Last has the unmatched talent and brevity to pull this off with each and every release they’ve concocted.

Here comes the next “one” with Storyboards. It’s been three long years since the release of Keep No Score, and it was well worth the wait for this fitting masterpiece. Storyboards kicks off with “Porcelain,” showing off Ryan O’Neal’s original emotional vocals backed by a beautiful composition of string orchestra and the finger-picking of an acoustic guitar. The rhythm that guides the track along is done well by Dan Perdue. “Naive” is a more piano-prominent track, that yet again displays O’Neal’s wonderfully poetic lyrical comprehension. O’Neal has a way of flowing eloquent words to fit within the created melody; it’s really masterfully done.

“Clockwork” is another masterful piece. The orchestra again flexes it’s muscles, and it sounds like something out of a Juilliard graduate's resume. There are none of the typically used instruments, just the string orchestration, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Very tasteful and original. “Unmade” is more stripped down with not much more than O’Neal’s acoustic guitar and very light drumming. O’Neal sings “I believe that we’ve got it wrong, got it wrong /We Realize that when it’s said and done, said and done / With our words we’ve lost so much more than we’ve ever won.” These epiphanies by O’Neal are all over Storyboards, more numerous than I can count. The tracks resonate through your heart like the feeling of being in love.

“Timelapse” begins with a lovely violin, then quickly breaks into a shift in tempo leaving the listener aghast in a sea of melody. The quick rhythm change gives the track a sense of urgency that none of the previous tracks contained, making it original in its own right. “Birdcage Religion” is one of the slower songs on the album, and yet is the only track that contains the use of an electric guitar. With “Green Screens”, O’Neal wastes no time with his telling of personal revelation: “If only worry could make a change / Then suddenly our world would take new shape.” Isn’t this something you’d normally read in a book? O’Neal’s hopeful and spiritual literary techniques simply cannot be matched, and he displays it on each track of Storyboards.

Keep No Score was a pivotal album that benchmarked Sleeping at Last as independent music’s heroes, but Storyboards shows the consistency that these guys have. Hopefully it won’t be three more years before another album of theirs is released, but either way, I am more than satisfied with letting this LP hog my iPod.


""Storyboards" Relevant Magazine Review"

As the title implies, the album is about creating stories, not just catchy hooks.

Like a good book or movie, Sleeping At Last’s [check out our interview with the band here] third album cannot be fully appreciated on the first pass.Storyboards has depth and layered meaning—proof that the trio from Chicago is less interested in writing catchy music and more concerned with making great art. Although Sleeping At Last has toured with bigger acts Switchfoot, The Format and Something Corporate, they continue to carve their own niche in the music scene.
Storyboards [stream the full album for free on The Drop] may be mellower than the band’s previous two releases, yet with frontman Ryan O’Neal’s matured lyrics and melodies, it has more to say. The opening track "Porcelain" illustrates this with the lines, “So I reached deeper in and pulled my whole world wide open, and for each broken mile, a billion miracles happen at once… in everything.” When read alone, O’Neal’s lyrics flow poetically, and although they are deeply personal and revealing, they also challenge listeners to reflect on their own lives. For this reason, Storyboards is an appropriate name. Each of the twelve songs is a story packed with meaning and emotion; the album can both inspire and convict. The album’s instrumentation is another point of originality. Many of the songs are driven by ukulele, which causes them to feel as though they were written in a far off time and place. The song “Slow & Steady” is an impressive crescendo that begins with the Hawaiian instrument and builds into a full orchestra of violin and piano, nicely complimenting O’Neal’s melody. “Clockwork” may be the most notable song on the album, sounding as though it could have been written for an early 20th-century musical. Its strings were arranged by legend Van Dyke Parks, who has worked with the likes of U2, The Beach Boys and Joanna Newsom (he also contributed to the song “The Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book).
While many bands only experiment with unconventional instruments—tamboras, ukuleles, mandolins and cellos—Sleeping At Last has built an entire album with them. It’s a success not because the instruments are different, but because they use them well. In fact, the sound is fairly organic, relying very little on auto-tuning and effects. On their previous work, Keep No Score, many songs reached their climax with guitars tweaked by delay pedals and reverb. Now, this "electric" method seems to have been abandoned, and big-sounding songs like “Timelapse” reach their highpoint with almost nothing but acoustic instruments. For modern indie bands, this is rare.

Aside from being a record of sound, the album is also very visual. Its artwork was provided by painter Geoff Benzing and contributes to the overall theme of life’s beauty and mystery. Additionally, O’Neal seems to use a lot of imagery in his lyrics to visually convey meaning, such as in “Green Screens” (see video above) where he sings, “On miles and miles of green screens love hangs on invisible strings.” The effect is strong and further contributes to the originality of the release. Overall, Storyboards is a success. Not only is it creative in itself, it is sure to inspire other artists and musicians to pursue greater levels of creativity in their own work.

-Curt Devine - Relevant Magazine


"Storyboards" 2009 (independent)
"Keep No Score" 2006 (independent)
"Ghosts" 2003 (interscope)


New Music Video-

Very rarely does a band strike the ideal equilibrium between indie credibility and commercial viability, but it’s a sophisticated scale balance that Sleeping At Last has mastered across the entire decade thus far. With its third national release Storyboards, the critical charmers from Chicago are just as comfortable calling upon legendary arranger Van Dyke Parks as they are appearing on “Grey’s Anatomy” with the goal of relating to its astute audience topping any accolade amassed on either side of the dial.

“We’re attracted to melodies that are pretty relatable and listen to music that is slightly obscure or under the radar, but find both sides coming together in an organic way,” observes front man Ryan O’Neal before bassist/keyboardist Dan Perdue interjects. “All of our favorite bands are always forward thinking and ground breaking, but also accessible, which is the hardest balance to find. But being forward thinking doesn’t mean anything if no one wants to listen to you and it’s obviously not all that exciting to sound like everything else out there.”

As indicated by a recent trip to Chicago’s Electrical Audio Studio (owned by Nirvana/The Pixies mastermind Steve Albini), Sleeping At Last have once again upped the artistic ante in this ambitious, self-produced affair, while concurrently maintaining relatability on all planes. It’s an intricate web that builds off the surging soundscapes of 2003’s Ghosts and the lush atmospherics of 2006’s Keep No Score, coupled with previously uncharted instrumental expeditions and glorious orchestration.

“Every time we go into the studio, we want to stretch ourselves musically as much as possible and we’ve noticed that each record seems to have a couple tracks that hint at the direction we’ll explore on the next,” suggests O’Neal, citing the addition of varied string arrangement styles, the folksy ukulele and a plethora of earthy but exotic adjunct instruments throughout Storyboards. “This time out, the results are really intimate where we’re utilizing a lot of really specific sounds and also working with people we’ve never had a chance to work with before that we really admire.”

And those visions have certainly caught the ear of several world class heavy-hitters, including the aforementioned arranger Parks (Brian Wilson’s SMiLE, U2, Tim Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, Ringo Starr), multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Ryan Francesconi (Joanna Newsom), plus longtime string collaborators Susan Voelz (Poi Dog Pondering) alongside woodwinds master Paul Von Mertens (Wilson, Wilco, Paul McCartney), and Jeremy Larson (also a lauded solo artist in his own right). Add in engineers Greg Norman (Pelican, Russian Circles, Guided By Voices) along with mixer John Goodmanson (Death Cab for Cutie, Sleater Kinney, Nada Surf), and the group’s third venture is truly a charm.

Ample evidence comes in the form of “Clockwork,” the group’s most elaborate track to date under the arrangement direction of Parks. Though it possesses his brilliantly unconventional qualities, it’s also textbook Sleeping At Last thanks to a series of sweeping rhythms and ethereal explorations.

“At first we just gave him a really simple demo of just the vocals and pianos and he just ran with it from there,” Perdue muses in a highly complimentary regard for Parks’ wizard-like prominence. “There are three violins, two violas, cellos, flutes, bass clarinets and just this overall rush of sound that is really one of a kind.”

Fans of modern day indie icon Joanna Newsom will also notice Francesconi throughout several songs on Storyboards, including “Slow & Steady” and “Side by Side,” which benefit from the shimmering juxtaposition of banjos, mandolins and even the exotic Bulgarian tambura. Longtime friend Larson adds stirring strings to supplement “Chandeliers,” which is just as pretty as it is punchy.

Throughout the eleven interwoven tracks on the aptly titled Storyboards, themes of reflection, introspection, renewal and optimism are prevalent, in addition to an underlying affinity for nature. O’Neal and Perdue are both animal appreciators, practicing vegetarians and frequently support the Humane Society both on and off stage.

“My approach to lyric writing is pretty much like an audio journal where I write about whatever’s happening in my world, but the themes are universal and subject to interpretation,” unveils O’Neal. “No matter where you’re coming from, I think everyone can find common ground of having experienced a really difficult period, but realizing there’s something better on the other side of that hurdle. Those are the type of emotions I hope these songs bring to people in hopes of realizing immediate struggles sometimes add up to more important parts of the larger picture.”

And as Sleeping At Last plots an extensive tour behind the album (following on the heels of road time