Balkans impress with self-titled debut

In recent years, indie music has been experiencing a growing evolutionary shift toward some electronic utopia. The more simplistic guitar tones are being temporarily pushed aside by many artists to further the electronic pursuit. Loop pedals, delay, synthesizers and the numerous capabilities of digital signal processing are making a rise. Despite this growing trend, the band Balkans bypassed the electronically embellished frenzy for a more direct electric approach with their self-titled debut release.

Balkans, a local Atlanta band comprised of members currently attending Tech and Georgia State, combines elements of punk and garage rock to create driving, hook-filled Indie music. The area of music that they have delved into with their first album is not entirely original; it has been attempted many times and has seen successes and failures. What gives the Balkans album any significance is the way that the band takes a known structure and skillfully remolds it into an entirely new creation. The result is a strong album from a young group, an album that excels musically and even overshadows many recent major releases.

Balkans could not stand alone with the individual pieces. The components do their part but can only fully excel as a whole. The swift, clangy electric guitars, the tight drums and the persistent bass would not have nearly as much of an overall effect without the strained vocals from Frankie Broyles. The vocals mesh well with the intricate instrumentation and truly provide the album with its crucial, distinctive element.

The album’s opening track, “Edita V,” begins with a frantic, slightly discordant guitar part that, stylistically, is common throughout the album. As the band pushes through the song’s verse and towards the chorus, which contains one of the strongest hooks of the album, Broyles’ piercing yell, reminiscent of the resounding wail of the Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser, adds melodic texture to the track.

“Dressed In Black” and “Black Swan,” two of the album’s catchier tracks, take more simplistic structural approaches with playful drumbeats, tuneful guitar riffs and melodic vocal runs. “Troubled and Done” features an Interpol-esque guitar run and a great interplay between the bass and guitar parts, with yet another soaring vocal part from Broyles.

One noteworthy characteristic of the album is the plethora of tempos presented and mastered by the band throughout the album. From “Flowers Everywhere,” an angsty, harmonious mid-tempo track, the band accelerates into “Let You Have It,” an exciting, thrash-filled punk number, then decelerates to a light walking pace with “Georganne.” The changes in tempos throughout the album are effortless and highly effective, adding one of the more intricate elements to the overall delivery.

With their self-titled debut release, Balkans have created one of the more fun, exciting and simply enjoyable albums of the first half of 2011. With great production quality, loads of hooks and a powerfully distinct and eccentric voice to elevate the melodies, Balkans have drawn major attention to themselves and have pulled people in with an eagerness to witness what more the band can materialize.


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