Fifteen Fleeting's debut album, "Signals From An Empty Room" is a collection of songs that spreads across musical genres maintaining a focus on some catchy hooks, tight rhythms and aggressive expansion. This is not so much a departure from their debut "Almost Everything" (when the band was still known by their original name, Trust) as it is an exploration and settling into their comforts and strong points as a unit.
The intro and opening title track kick the album off nicely. "Signals From An Empty Room" hits hard, and combines lead singer Vinny Belcastro's refined voice with a fast, repetitive guitar scream that takes me back to Soundgarden's "Pretty Noose" (YouTube that song if you don't know what I'm talking about, once the first chorus comes in) One aspect I like about this song comes down to something as simple as its placement on the track listing. It kicks the album off in a state of confusion and isolation with the subject matter, while at the same time sets up the listener for a nice ride. When the the heavy and unpredictable guitar solo of Dan Rodriguez takes hold of the song, it's the album's first departure from their first EP. They seem to have let themselves free in the studio while maintaining their tight song structure and catchy hooks. This combines an untapped potential not fully reached in their previous recording, and combines it with their existing musical strong points.
"If It's Alright" isn't the band's single, but if they had a single out right now, this should be it. It's the song that will most likely make the fans scream and go wild. The difference here is the catchy as hell on a hot day guitar progression in the chorus that sounds like it came out of Eddie Van Halen's school of rock. It's no surprise this tune has become a regular on their setlists during live shows since it's probably as fun for them to play as it is to listen to. At first glance it seems like a summer romance tune, but don't let the catchy chorus get you, I comprehend the song as a reminiscent tune about life, opportunities, not taking anything for granted and specifically an autobiographical tune about a band on the rise.
"Streetlamp Limelight" is another tune they've polished off in concert, and now utilized the recording studio very well with. This song comes off as almost a sequel or another chapter to the album's title track. The layering of the guitars over Mike Petzinger's six string bass, especially during his solo, gives them all the right to put something sounding as catchy as "If It's Alright" right behind it. They capture a story of a girl yearning for the spotlight, and the song has a nice cinematic quality to it. This is a tale of desperation, fading potential, only or last chances, and paints picture of a vivid, realistic, and modern cityscape. "If It's Alright" is the yin to "Streetlamp Limelight's" yang.
The superhero blues-rock number "Man of Tomorrow" highlights one of the album's coolest workings with Rodriguez's guitar singing along to Belcastro's vocals. This is something not done enough in music today (and also why I still listen to pre-1971 Allman Brothers Band records regularly). Right around this point of the album, I started seeing the picture coming together, whether intentional by the band or not. I felt like "Man of Tomorrow" was singing to "Streetlamp Limelight" girl, and they were both trying to get to the place in"If It's Alright." This one might not go over so well and could fall under appreciated in a musical world where Kryptonite and Superman songs have been played out to all ends.
"Among A Million" is a poetic take on the world at large and is the band's first excursion outside of their live boundaries, adopting the soft violin sounds of guest Chris Klaus. It took the Foo Fighters 6 or 7 years to realize they should go outside their own parameters to give themselves a more dynamic sound, so Fifteen Fleeting is off to a great start. If "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" had a pulse and a soul, it might sound slightly like this...might being the key word there.
"This Time" is a modern rocker of shaky love, and comes off as a darker version of "If It's Alright." This one could have done a bit more or less, and is probably the only track that doesn't bring too much extra to the table. The opening really hits hard but doesn't deliver as much as some of the other songs. I hear hints of things done on "Man of Tomorrow" and "The Only" on here, only they were pulled off better on those songs. It has a buildup similar to "The Only," but doesn't match nearly match it.
It's surprising how many different musical ideas they could fit into a 10 track span, especially with one of those tracks being an intro and another being a 90 second instrumental. This is another idea the group isn't afraid of. They've got various sounds and different sounds, not limiting themselves to a specific genre or crowd. In an age where everyone and their uncle Larry has a video on YouTube of their keyboard or accordion rendition of "Stairway to Heaven" up in exponentially larger quantities, groups have to avoid the one trick pony status to keep their heads above water. Fifteen Fleeting has recognized this epidemic and how to stand against it by exploring their musical ideas and they're not afraid to lay them down in the studio and play them to audiences.
"The Only" is Fifteen Fleeting's greatest musical accomplishment in their budding career so far. It may not capture each individual's finest musical moment on the album, but what it does capture is the greatest musical combination they've gotten into song on record. The opening guitar effects covered in the heavy drum cadence and distorted bass take you down a dark road. The echoed vocals, dreary guitar layering, distorted bass, rolling drums, and harmonies erupt on record giving the band it's best moment. This is the album's climax, it's peak moment that gets the band clicking on all cylinders at full speed, and just as Coldplay will always have a song as powerful as "Fix You" in their concerts from now until the end of time, Fifteen Fleeting should do the same with this gem. This one shouldn't get put on the shelf anytime soon.
The brief instrumental "In Pursuit Of.." sounds similar to a mariachi in the attic, and is a nice dissension from the fireworks of "The Only." Leading into the track's final tune, "A Just Perspective," we are left with one more pleasant surprise from Fifteen Fleeting. This is a journeyman's tale, and could have been a b-side to Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters," were the band around 17 years ago. This song also reminded me of the recent departures from Silverchair, who are ironically an influence on the band. The lower register in the vocals and the soft guitar further displays their newly acquired versatility. I think some bands today go in this direction because it's something different from the countless other bands who do the whole high pitched heartfelt crooning scream thing with their singing. It's not always necessary to sing at the highest possible note to get a certain emotion across, and I think this is something the band should try more of. Fifteen Fleeting should try to utilize these standout nuances in future songs so they don't allow themselves to be stuck in familiar territory.
With the exception of "If It's Alright," the band has ventured into darker territory, and flexed their muscle in a lot of this experimentation. The work in the studio of Producer Rob Freeman has also helped the band evolve from his work with them on the "Almost Everything" EP to this new collection of tunes. The epic wall sound achieved on "The Only" is definitely his and the band's crowning achievement on this disc and surpasses most million dollar major label productions currently out there.
I believe the strongest moments on this album come from very different songs, being "If It's Alright," "The Only," "Man of Tomorrow," and "A Just Perspective." Perhaps leaving a song or two off, abandoning the intro, and maybe making "In Pursuit Of...A Just Perspective" one song and trimming it a bit would tighten up the set a bit. Not to say that the songs are superior or inferior to the other songs, but some of them give off a vibe of the potential the band has, and perhaps a glimpse into how they may stretch each of these musical directions in their future songs.