If I’m following trends, a band’s career seems to consist of first being noticed and receiving attention, then establishing a niche in the scene/genre, and finally transcending its reputation into something universal. Chin Up Chin Up’s second full length, This Harness Can’t Ride Anything, acknowledges this idea and works to expand the framework laid on the band’s call-for-attention debut, 2004’s We Should Have Never Lived Like Skyscrapers. To connect with an audience outside of their established nook in the indie scene, the members of Chin Up Chin Up must have realized they needed to push their emotional boundaries in all aspects of their sound.
As displayed This Harness Can’t Ride Anything, their unbridled enthusiasm and childlike playfulness show they are up for the challenge. “Water Planes in Snow,” “We’ve Got to Keep Running” and “Island Sink” are exercises in complexity and attention to detail. All three feature a complete palette of sounds, twists and turns. Every bit of space is filled with a cymbal crash, organ or synth burst, dreamy and echoed guitar riffs, hand claps or strings. Chin Up Chin Up’s beefed-up sound adds essential intrigue, drawing the listener back for additional opportunity of discovery.
“Landlocked Lifeguards” and “Stolen Mountains” exhibit the sensitivity and vulnerability Chin Up Chin Up lacked on previous efforts. Band leader Jeremy Bolan harmonizes with guest vocalist Laura Laurent on “Landlocked Lifeguards” and advantageously softens their meticulously crafted avant-garde pop. “Stolen Mountains” is an expansive atmospheric piece featuring Bolan’s most soft and tender singing and concluding with a perfectly placed and expressive marimba. The title track, the album’s highpoint, showcases the full spectrum of Chin Up Chin Up’s sound, with dreamy echoed reverb, wistful, string-laden longings, upbeat harmonies, heavily detailed instrumentation and warm, unguarded lyrics (“And I see them run/ I am empty” and “We watch them run/ You’re stealing legs from me”).
By becoming both mature and exposed, the members of Chin Up Chin Up increase their accessibility and decrease the smarmy arrogance of their debut. Transcendence has yet to occur, but they have taken the required step in acquiring a broader range of exposure. Their next move will be their hardest, but This Harness Can’t Ride Anything is an exhibition of growth gone right, and it should be cherished as such.