Review of War Tapes album The Continental Divide released through Sarathan Records.
The Continental Divide is the debut album from California-based four piece War Tapes. Rumour has it they already have material ready for their second album, so it seems they have developed a taste for recording. On this showing, you can see why.
First track 'The Night Unfolds' is packed full of frantic rhythms and continuously distorted guitars. Lead singer Neil Popkin's vocals add an additional layer to the track, as they do throughout the album.
'Dreaming of You' initially sounds different to the other tracks; it's more ordered, there is preference given to the vocals and the guitars are clearly in control. It's the most obviously romantically-led track too; all about living life in a dream and how it's better than the reality. The majority of War Tapes fans are likely to respond to this track immediately and so they should; with its strong backing vocals, it is one of the more solid tracks on the album.
The pop-influenced 'Use Me' comes with a hard-edged chorus that help to support War Tapes' rock credibility. Popkin's soaring vocals guide the track to its end, nicely supported by sister, bassist Becca Popkin.
The first few tracks are strong and promising for War Tapes' future longevity. Having said that, towards the middle of the album, things do get a little repetitive. By the time you reach 'All The World's a Stage', you have grown used to the band's careful balance of full-blown guitar with Popkin's emotion-fuelled vocals. This isn't a bad thing in reality; the songs continue to be enjoyable to the end.
'Mind is Ugly' is lyrically darker, beginning "everything's my fault/everything at all, tonight I'm giving up" but such lyrics seem to help Popkin's vocals sound richer; maybe he relates to the gloom, or maybe he has just the right amount of showman ability to turn it on when necessary.
The Continental Divide is a good collection of interesting songs. They don't necessarily tie together, but work just as well as stand alone tracks. The War Tapes can be compared to many established acts, Depeche Mode springs to mind, for instance; these comparisons are not unfair, but the beauty of this band is their ability to deliver familiar-sounding tracks with a modern style. This should make them accessible to an even bigger audience.