Naming your band Eulogies could either lead to acclaim or become a punch line (i.e. “this band is D.O.A.”), and the jury may still out on which it is. The Eulogies have a solid record in Here Anonymous, but putting out a decent indie album is ubiquitous in 2009. Everyone with a Mac and Garage Band can string together a series of loops, a couple guitar phrases, and a passable set of lyrics leading to a mostly enjoyable listening experience. The waters are full of this stuff. It’s becoming harder and harder to make a standout record.
It’s when Peter Walker lays his vocals upon softer and simpler arrangements that the Eulogies begin to stand apart. “Bad Connection” and “Two Can Play” animate the record. “Bad Connection” — possibly the best track on the album — allows Walker’s nuanced vocals to stand full bodied for the listener’s ears. A quietly picked electric guitar and simple bass line make it clear (as it should be) that Walker is the show. On “Two Can Play” the give and take of Walker and Nikki Monninger’s duet make me forget even what the backing arrangement sounds like…
Which leads to the crux of the Eulogies: Walker’s vocal talent. He makes the band. Walker neither whispers nor outright bellows the lyrics. He isn’t a Elliott Smith/Nick Drake knock off. Walker has more of a voice than that, and he doesn’t revert to whispers to fit in. His delivery sits somewhere under a three beer buzz. Possibly pulling slightly from the likes of Willie Nelson, Walker phrases slightly ahead of or behind the beat. Doing so allows for that Buckley-esque faltering and fragile vibrato that’s almost not there at all.
The vocals are embalmed and entombed on tracks like “How to Be Alone” and “Eyes on the Prize”. If you dug around a bit, you could find them, but they are generally buried under what can only be described as mediocre guitar riffing. Why add ho-hum blustery and buzzed guitar to the mix when it isn’t necessary? Mixing like this will only demotes a song.
As far as pace and mood are concerned, Here Anonymous is scattered. “The Fight (I’ve Come to Like)” has that two snare pop on counts three and four, making it nearly danceable. And it’s one of the few tracks that chalks up a win for a busier arrangement. Other tracks slow or speed the pace. Generally, the track order doesn’t jerk the listener around by both arms, but it’s hard not to wonder if the Eulogies didn’t decide to try everything to see just what would stick.
In criticizing Here Anonymous for its short comings, I am only doing so knowing that I am making light of a band that has the potential to put out top shelf songs. It hasn’t been achieved yet consistently, but it’s easy to hear hints of future potential on the better tracks on this record. The Eulogies aren’t digging a grave for themselves, and they aren’t in danger of needing one. If Here Anonymous is indicative of things to come, let’s call the record a birth.