Black Tie Dynasty



    Every now and then, I know exactly what my elders mean when they talk of “the good old days” or how things were better “then” — some past date and place untarnished by the cruel movement of time. We are conditioned for nostalgia, even for a place and time we have never lived in. Films, books and music fill in our memory gaps and we find ourselves lost in daydreams of what was, what could have been, and where we are now.


    The ’80s were far from the good old days, as far as I can tell — I was only seven at the close of the decade — but current music trends have reveled in nostalgia-inducing ballads. Black Tie Dynasty isn’t the first contemporary band seemingly cut from the same fabric as Echo & the Bunnymen, Joy Division and Depeche Mode, but the members’ songwriting may be some of the most clean-cut ’80s craftsmanship ever to occur outside of the restrictions of that decade. Current influences occasionally slip into Black Tie Dynasty’s music, but many of the songs and their most memorable parts seem to be taken directly from a page in a diary dated February 28, 1986.


    Movements is a slight departure from the band’s first effort, This Stays Between Us, and the 2005 collaboration with DARYL on Bloody Basin. On This Stays Between Us, the songs are built like American cities, always growing and sprawling out across musical landscapes, upward like skyscrapers and outward like suburbs. But the songs on Movements are more like European cities, contained and focused. The songs on This Stays Between Us are reminiscent of ’80s influences, but there is a playful and unrestrained element on the record that bridges gaps between decades and allows a fair amount of movement within the songs.


    Because the songs on Movements are more concise, they benefit from added attention. But for the most part they aren’t as inventive or provocative as the six pieces on This Stays Between Us. Even the big guitar or piano parts feel like they are aware of invisible restrictions. The vocal patterns are often a little too repetitious, and vocalist Cory Watson’s impressive range and voice just don’t feel pushed as far as they could have been.


    That aside, Movements is a solid, emotive record. From the first seconds of “Bells,” there is a reminder of musical elements that haven’t been retold recently as concretely as Black Tie Dynasty is capable of. Throughout the record the band puts its talents on display with the production and arrangement of the music solidifying the effect of the songs. Although sometimes it feels like you are only going a hundred miles per hour in a car you know can push one-thirty, you are still going pretty damn fast.


    “Devotion,” the album’s epic closer, slowly assembles itself into one of Black Tie Dynasty’s finest songs. Even while pacing itself to the point where the song really doesn’t kick off until after the half-way point of its six minute length, “Devotion” is worth the wait.


    Movements may not have overshadowed Black Tie Dynasty’s previous recordings, but it is a remarkable record that unveils its layers after repeated listens. Movements has an elegance that disguises itself in plain clothes — an elegance that shouldn’t be missed.


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