Excuse Me. - Excuse Me.
Excuse Me.'s eponymous first full LP release matches the eclecticism of experimental rock with the pop sensibilities of a band that is not only confident in their sound, but one that’s excited to explore its expanses.
Despite how many times I listen to this album, I haven’t ceased to find something new I hadn’t noticed before. Absolutely, without fail, there’s some subtlety, some understated instrument or piece of the production that I managed to miss. It’s an album that immediately begs for a revisit to fully wrap your head around, and then another, and another, although it’s entrancing from the first.
Excuse Me. (the band and the album) artfully jump rope with genre, rhythm, and song form, but a few key representative characteristics of the band (and album) stay relatively constant: the lushness of the harmonies, the love of flouting expectation, and the immensity and cinematic, yet intimate feel of the arrangement and production, whether the moment is minimal or massive, or somehow both at once.
For Stephen, the record opener, immediately broadcasts these core elements of their sound and sets the stage perfectly for the ride it ushers in. Liskauskas’ commandingly deep, layered vocals grow from haunting whisper to urgent call as enormous drums and ethereal synth and guitar leads crescendo in a swelling sense of anticipation the rest of the album capitalizes on over and over.
The next three tracks, Home, Lionheart, and My Garden, though definitely not pop, are hands down the catchiest, most radio-friendly songs in the lineup. With its balanced sense of urgency and optimism, driving beat, and Hot Fuss era The Killers reminiscent synth lead, Home delivers effectively and promptly on the promise made by the intro track, and finds little moments to showcase every member of the band. Lionheart veers in a different direction; upbeat and exhilarating, it flaunts Excuse Me.’s showmanlike ease at building excitement, breaking it, and bringing it back without missing a beat. The "Not all that wander are lost / A rolling stone gathers no moss” section of the song is one of the most memorable moments of the album, and conjures the image of the cinematic climax to an uplifting movie trailer (or a commercial for an incredibly rugged SUV). My Garden, overflowing with anthemic arena rock guitar riffs, humongous, explosive percussion and ferocious vocal delivery, wraps up the out-and-out bops before delving into the deeper cuts at the heart of the album.
The rest of the record grows increasingly more and more experimental, but still grips the listener through every genre sampling, every seemingly spontaneous yet seamless rhythm change, and every track that feels like it might've been three or four. In the Beginning / the Lake and Wishing stand out as the most intricately staged and sectioned tracks, with separate movements rising, falling, and coinciding; though essentially every title on the latter half of the LP brings something unique to the table in regards to left turns and expectation subversion. The Bike Song moves with ease from what sounds like a slow number at a high school dance into a vibey synth jam, into the two sections lining up at once inexplicably well. The Weakened Blues, which may be the cheeriest, most upbeat cut, starts with an almost incomprehensible metre; the first time hearing it, it genuinely sounds like they’re missing the beat. But as the rest of the instrumentation joins in and fills out the rhythm, it becomes starkly apparent they were bang on the whole time and just showing off.
Quite possibly the most dynamic track on the album, and my personal favourite, - Silence gives the listener sonic and emotional whiplash in the most satisfying way. Aligned beautifully with the content of its lyrics, the song builds and dissipates quiet tension over and over before delivering the obligatory, sudden wall of sound, which itself is just another build about to drop down to more mounting tension. It feels like the musical equivalent of a barber’s pole, constantly escalating, until the entire direction of the song shifts again on a dime. With a hefty guitar lick and a firm, contradictory “Now that I think about it / Fuck the silence”, the song is thrust from poignant reminiscence right into upbeat anthem.
After a deep steeping in huge dynamic contrast and emotional highs and lows, the album wraps up with the slow, haunting guitar twang and deep, resonant vocals of Vesper. As they tend to throughout the entirety of the record, enigmatic lyrics paint a picture smack dab in the middle of the Venn diagram between poetic ambiguity and nostalgic relatability. This imagery dissolves, and the last bittersweet moments of the record are carried away by a mournful, ethereal trumpet line and the same sounds of shuffling and a door opening and closing that begin the record.
Excuse Me. is an incredibly diverse soundscape to explore, well-crafted, with a seemingly greater and greater pay off with every listen. The production behind every track is beyond extensive, and each stands out from the rest. Had I the time and energy, I’d love to list off all the little sonic easter eggs I’ve found, but you’re better off giving it a listen (or three) for yourself.
- Jack Darby