Nothing can be more intimidating then the epic instrumental album. Most people, with no lyrics to sing along to, write these albums off as “background music”—for good reason, sometimes; these albums can be hard to get into. Most of the time, the reward these albums present for the effort it takes to listen to them is miniscule.
Valley of the Giants, however, looked like they could do it right. The band has an all-star lineup—members of A Silver Mt. Zion, Godspeed! You Black Emperor, and Broken Social Scene are found here, and their debut album is being released on Arts and Crafts; a label that was formed for the sole purpose of releasing Broken Social Scene’s You Forgot it in People but has evolved into one of the most impressive labels currently flying under the radar. Unfortunately, Valley of the Giants, the band’s self-titled debut, doesn’t live up to the expectations its members’ other projects might encourage.
The band claims the inspiration for their debut came from a viewing of the Michael Crighton film Westworld and the songs certainly support that. The band chooses to turn towards the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns for their sound—long-playing songs that blend heavily-reverbed Mexican tremolo guitars with strong country roots. The band, as expected, adds a sophisticated touch to the style. The problem is that the songs don’t go anywhere. They stroll casually, eyes pointed to the ground, and when you’re expecting the song to finally show itself to you, you realize that’s all you’re going to get.
Valley of the Giants is big on atmosphere, to the point that it forgets what’s made its members other projects so successful. The album’s sprawling sound aims high, but falters in the hot San Lucas sun.