When the chamber-pop arrangements on Amestory’s eponymous debut break in jumpy, unanticipated directions, it almost makes wading through the more average-sounding melancholia worth it. Ray Tong’s violin accompaniment helps tracks such as the merely listenable “They’re Telling You You Have Been Alive” stick out much more than they would otherwise, and his strings are an elegant touch over the rather forlorn vocal offerings from multi-instrumentalist Mike Russell. But the more exciting pre-chorus portions are the blasts of waltzy, colorful drum exercises that unfortunately aren’t that common on the Thousand Oaks, California four-piece’s release.
“Scotch,” a beverage nearly necessary alongside some of these humdrum cuts, is also illuminated by bits of quirky piano and strings, and the vocals get a dose of nicely placed backup harmonies, accenting only parts of the verses. Amestory’s arrangements are clearly treated with great care, such as when the mostly acoustic folk of “Track 4” gives way to a sleepy motor-laden chimefest, but the same-sounding near-whine vocals often detract from the efforts of the players. There isn’t enough of said creative intervention on the album to sustain the majority of these sometimes-lengthy songs. Dewars and water, please.