In an effort to rise from the brimstone Manhattan club scene that spawned them, Early May has instead mired themselves in an album of morose lethargy and familiar arrangements. Their down-tempo rock debut, Stay Off Your Heels, alternates between rumbling incantations of vanished love and violin-driven eulogies to hope delivered beneath the glaring streetlights – and through it all, everyone’s 6th Avenue heartache increases a little.
Early May (not to be confused with whimpering calendar peers The Early
November) delivers an anguish in every deceptively autumnal track that is attractively arranged but slightly overstated. Major chords lead logically to successors that offer slight comfort in their familiarity and stir the placid undertones of their oft-utilized string accents (especially in “The Commuter” and the title track) and vocalist Brad Peterson’s ragged wail. Rolling and elegant, the progressions are sensible but indistinguishable from their overstuffed rock peers – especially “Plummet,” a gaunt ballad that switches tempos gracelessly and swipes the introduction to Metallica’s “The Unforgiven.”
Still, Stay Off Your Heels delivers moments of pleasant catchiness marred by lyrical repetitiveness and chorus dependency. “Come Around” is a symphony of desperation that relies on its chorus of “Until you come around / let me be the answer” to carry the song from midway to end. “What You Wanted” and “Hesitate” find their hooks and claim ‘game over,’ chanting them eagerly like Boy Scouts who’ve just earned their merit badges.
Early May has a knack for finding likeable bits of their songs and expanding them into overblown productions. Until they find a deeper voice, though, it will be a very cold spring indeed.