REVIEW: States – Room To Run

Artist: States
Album: Room to Run
Genre: Pop/rock
Label: [none]

According to States’ Facebook, this is the result of some experimenting with demos at home. As is most music, naturally, but there’s something about this album that still reeks of indecision. It’s good, well put together and broad enough to find a wide audience, but there’s no real sense of self to it, as though they keep changing their minds about what sound they’re going for. That’s all well and good if you want to keep trying new things, but the album does tend to lack coherence as a result.

In any case, the songs are all well fashioned if slightly unremarkable, and there’s nothing here that really stands out as exceptional. The album opens with a more solid rock infusion, before metamorphosing into something poppier and slightly generic as it proceeds. “Timebomb” opens glossy and elegant, giving an early hint of promise in its deadpan guitars. The chorus alters the set-up somewhat, bringing in more layers of instrumentation as everything suddenly becomes very light and almost childlike with the introduction of keys and synth effects. It’s a stark difference from the rugged effect going on in the verses and the first indication that they’re not quite willing to settle, but it is a good opener. “Captivating Me” is, musically, quite hardened when it begins though the silky vocals temper this with something sweeter. The verses are actually quite poppy, with little keen guitar thrills and softer linings, and the chorus is much the same as before with a delicate heart and some sweeping decoration. “Right Or Not” has a bit of a synthesized tint petering through it, lending it something of a darker edge though this pans out in the verses to sound a bit more bittersweet. The synth carries over in the chorus and the guitars sharpen themselves up, creating a kind of conflicted balance between tender and heavy. It’s a bit ambivalent, really, which is a word that seems apt to describe most of the album. For every little kooky aside, there are indiscriminate vocals and the frequent shapeshifting makes the whole thing feel a bit uncomfortable.

“Everlasting” is relatively forgettable, while “Versus the Mirror” ups the beat, making it a bit more uneven and urgent. The chorus once again ups the ante slightly, with a reaching vocal line and a slight change in the air, to make it sound bigger, more anthemic, and a touch sentimental. The piano-laden finale is far too cheesy, and yet strangely endearing. “As Good As It Gets” doesn’t push many boundaries musically either, it’s simple and accomplished and uses some keys to broaden out its acoustic guitars. It does have a more obvious sense of self than many of the other songs though, and for all its standard would-be-ballad status it feels more authentic and genuine.

“Can’t Explain” is perfectly uninteresting until it ends, the bridge managing to isolate some faint emotion and working well with the final vocal refrain. “Generation” is steadily paced with some nice pop hooks. I like the layering in the verses, as one soaring guitar note peaks, faint yet triumphant, underneath everything else. The synth works well here to give it a fuller sound and the chorus is brash and full. “Waiting (For Too Long)” is the token ballad of the affair – a nice, if simplistic, piece that suits Mindy White’s diffident vocals well. The guitar serenades her neatly during the verse with a restrained, if compelling, little refrain and the chorus is deceptively intense. I’m inclined to believe White’s vocals, which fit this slower number quite well, may be at fault elsewhere – they’re lovely to listen to, but too flavorless to allow the more upbeat numbers to really shine.

“Follow It Home” is the final song then, all sprightly and animated and laden with wistful harmonies. The formula is as before, with a smoothly balanced verse enlivened by a faster chorus. The guitars and vocals do work well together here however, finding a kind of high-pitched common ground to give this the emotional lilt it needs.

Room to Run has room for improvement (if you’ll pardon that), and lots of it. It’s decent but not brilliant, and lacks a clear sense of direction. The basic package is likable though and they do show an impressive willingness to experiment here and there, so perhaps with more time and reflection States will follow through.

SCORE: 6/10
Review written by: Grace Duffy

James Shotwell
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