I hate writing about underwhelming releases, always because I feel like I'm slighting the artist, even if I respect them as a band. That's why it was difficult for me to listen, and subsequently write, about Ira's album These Are the Arms: I believe the band is incredibly talented, but this release is just not that interesting.
Most of my issues stem from the vocal performances. Though "Katapult" does feature some nice vocal work, contrasting with the spoken word passages rather nicely, I can't help but feel that the music would be better off without them entirely. Ira tend to overdo their vocal lines, making their presence much more pronounced than it has to be to make their point. "A New Profile" is a pretty solid piece of music, I am happy to note, but the vocals tend to be such an overbearing presence that it's really not nearly as enjoyable as it could be. Ditto that word-for-word about "The Gift". Then again, the transitional tracks, like "EPK" and "Score", tend to be more on the distracting side, even without vocals. They lean towards annoying, rather than acting as effective buffers or segues between tracks.
Given that, behold the cause for my frustration: the final track, "Hydrophobia" is unexpectedly standout, especially in comparison to the rest of the album. I'm not sure where it came from, but this track is leagues ahead of the rest of the material here. The buildup after the false ending works incredibly well, and it's one of the few places on the album where the spoken word and clean vocals add immeasurably to the quality of the piece overall. Even though the ending was somewhat of a mood killer, I wish more of the album could've been this strong. It tells me that Ira are really capable of some standout music. But unfortunately, this is the only moment where they really seem to have it together.
I really just wish there was more to say about this album, but the fact of the matter is, it just doesn't do that much that's new or inventive. It's just not doing enough to pull itself--I found myself getting up and leaving frequently during listens, coming back to find I hadn't really missed much of anything at all. I've no doubt Ira are a solid band, but These Are the Arms is unfortunately a lacklustre, pretty mediocre release. Enjoyable, yes; fulfilling, no.
4.5 / 10
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