Tuesday, February 26, 2008

CD Review: They Iry "Dinner For Two on the Moon"

by Dave Schaefer

If you believe that the Columbus local music scene lacks the kind of talent that’s good enough to hit it on the national level,The Iry will prove to you that you’re sadly misinformed.

The Iry creates piano-driven pop rock that is atypical enough to grab your attention and has a depth of lyrical content that’s intriguing and makes multiple listenings a must. This is music that’s alive, three-dimensional, and is bright even in its darkness.

The band is a four-piece consisting of Stefan Schwartz (lead vocals, keys), Stefan’s cousin Jordan Lothes (drums), along with Gregory Hewes (guitar) and Chris Williams (bass, backing vocals). All have known each other since they were kids -- back when Transformers were likely far more important than the potential for rock stardom.

Their sound has been compared to Coldplay and even the band’s own press release agrees, and adds Cold War Kids to the list as well. Though The Iry smacks a bit of these artists, the man that immediately came to my mind in hearing the CD for the first time was Ken Andrews. Andrews was the lead singer of Failure back in the nineties who, after the demise of the band, released a couple albums under the moniker On. He most recently formed Year of the Rabbit that released a self-titled CD in 2004. It’s the Year of the Rabbit album that reminds me that most of The Iry. The comparison to Andrews is far more apt than that of Coldplay -- and perhaps more complimentary.

The Iry’s CD Dinner For Two on the Moon is amongst the most even-sounding albums I’ve heard. Nowhere in it will you find a song that suddenly takes an odd turn nor does the band include a song that is out of place. Each track fits into the larger whole in such a way that you wonder if it would all fall apart if one were missing. Not that this is a concept album or some bizarre experimental CD, but rather each song leads you along so well that you hardly realize that 44 minutes and 11 tracks have passed between your ears as you experience the mix of storytelling and flowing tunes.

In the midst of writing this review, I had the opportunity to catch The Iry perform at Oldfield’s and experience their musicianship firsthand. I already knew from listening to their CD that their talent was formidable, but seeing them live revealed that they’re every bit of formidable with a hefty dose of entertaining. Whenever the front of a band is stuck behind a keyboard, there’s the risk of creating a rather undynamic situation where you’re hearing a rock band but seeing a lounge act. Not so with The Iry. Stefan keeps up a lively interaction and Chris follows suit, while Jordan keeps things moving behind the drums and Greg puts up with all the inside jokes directed his way. They have fun on stage, and whether the audience is there or not, you get the impression that that same fun would still be had. If you haven’t had the opportunity to see The Iry perform, take an evening and do it. You won’t be disappointed.

But getting back to
Dinner For Two on the Moon, I have to talk about Stefan’s vocals. His voice is an interesting mix of ballady-smooth with a hint of raspy-rocker, which creates the perfect reflection of Greg’s guitar work and Stefan’s own piano playing. Chris’ backing vocals weld with Stefan’s, making an even stronger blend when put together.

The lyrical content is a mix of storytelling and poetry. Seldom do you scratch your head wondering the the hell they’re singing about. Though by no means simple, the lyrics are often straightforward and have an impressive depth. Even when the depth isn’t quite there, the musical content lifts it up and keeps it afloat.

Bottom line,
Dinner For Two on the Moon is not only an impressive CD, The Iry have an impressive sound as well. With the right breaks -- and if they keep up with the quality of this release -- these guys will have a very successful future.

Here’s my take on five standout tracks of the 11 on the CD:

Blackout
The Iry was smart to open with this song. With its rock tones and piano-driven underpinnings, it’s a prelude to what’s in store for the listener. “Blackout” is a strong offering, giving hints of the quality that’s being offered if the CD remains in your player.

I’ve Seen It All
Sounding like it should be coming from the UK rather than from Columbus, Ohio, this track is the one that I found replaying itself in my head when when I was away from my iPod. It’s blend of catchy lyrics and clever hooks are subtle, but infectious.

Postcard Scene
This song is my favorite on the CD. A seemingly simple ballad, it’s actually a beautifully layered track with lyrics that are both storytelling and emotional. A melancholy road trip woven into a comfortable blanket that’ll keep you warm in the backseat as you make your way down route 66.

Six Stories
The most different of anything on Dinner For Two on the Moon, “Six Stories” has a nice late-sixties sensibility that creates a musical flow that carries the lyrics beautifully. The blend of piano, a few moments of driving drums, and vocals makes this track a definite standout.

December (Part 2)
This track hits it strong from the outset with a Mika-esque blend of piano, guitar and drums. The last song on the CD, it’s a good track to end on, making you want to hit that play button to start it all over again.

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