The “Helio Sequence” ages with grace

The Portland duo’s much anticipated new record is best described as subtly stellar.


Photo courtesy of Sub Pop Records

Christian Davis, Writer

There is an unspoken agreement between you and your favorite bands after they release an incredible record. It is a sort of non-verbal contract that says you are interested and stoked for any sort of follow-up. Whether it is a related side project, solo work, one-off acoustic tour or some rare colored vinyl pressing of that one split they did with that other band, you’re guaranteed to be the first one to know about it.

Veterans of the Indie Rock Scene

That said, can anyone talk about The Helio Sequence’s new self-titled record without bias? With a back catalogue that includes a record like 2008’s “Keep Your Eyes Ahead,” I am not sure if anyone out there actively dislikes these veterans of the scene. I am still hard pressed to think of anyone else who sounds quite like them, and indie rock has had seven years worth of opportunities to try and catch up. This puts their last record, “Negotiations” in somewhat of an awkward position, as it is not one to dismiss, but not the first to come to mind in their back catalogue.

Exactly What We Needed

Fast forward, and their self-titled excels in subtlety, and maybe that is exactly what we needed from them. These tracks do not hit you over the head with pathos, and I did not react the same way I did in eighth grade hearing the title track from “Keep Your Eyes Ahead.” But none of this negates the record’s depth or sincerity — if anything it proves it. Opener “Battle Lines” lulls at first, but breaks into the complex drum patterns that are now a Helio Sequence staple. These songs know how to breathe, using atmospheric keyboards and impeccable guitar work to create textures that never become muddled.

Sonic Maturity

If this record showcases anything, it is the band’s sonic maturity. They have aged gracefully, carefully refining their structure in ways that emphasize their strengths. Brandon Summers’ vocals soar throughout these tracks, sounding as timeless as they did seven years ago. The Helio Sequence has aged with me, in a sense. Their music is infinitely more grounded now, more in touch with their roots. There are fewer layers working at once, but the whole record still feels quite solid. “I don’t wanna be cruel, I don’t wanna be distant / or harbor grief for you, no I don’t wanna be cool,” are the words during the chorus of Dueces, the sixth track on the album. The Helio Sequence’s new self-titled is not as immediately inviting as their iconic 2008 release, but its intricacies take their time to get to you. There is no pretense of trying to be cool — it is just another addition to an otherwise stellar discography. It also happens to feel just right this time.

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