I used to really enjoy going to see local bands play. And by local, I mean really local. So local that the show was held in someone’s basement and 10 people showed up. I enjoyed watching these bands not so much because they were musically gifted, but because they had passion and energy. They didn’t care that the only place they could play was some guy’s basement. They just wanted to play for as many people as possible. I bring this up because listening to the debut EP from the Pictorials, Learning, felt like experiencing one of these concerts again. Except for the passion and energy part.

The album starts off strong enough with a catchy little rhythm that I found surprisingly lighthearted for a band that is dubbed as “Post-Punk-Indie-Pop-Dance”. Then, the opening track, Sense of Vanity (you can download the song here), explodes into a symphony of sound and I started to feel like this was going to be a very promising offering from a young band. Sadly, this is the bright spot of a mediocre EP. Once lead singer Morgan Nicholson begins to belt out his lyrics, I could feel this one slipping away. The lyrics on this album lead are repetitive and shallow, at best. Unfortunately, this seems to be true for the remaining 3 songs on the EP.

Once again, the lead in to the second track, Mystery Matter, begins strong with another melodic guitar hook. But once again, the song falls apart once the lyrics are added in. It’s like the rest of the band feels they have to be boring and repetitive as soon as Nicholson starts singing. I found during this entire album the band kept coming up with clever little ideas and I thought that maybe we were pulling out of the tailspin. However, these little moments of inspiration fail to make up for the blandness of the rest of the album.

One of the things that really drove me crazy while listening to these 4 songs was how disharmonious the band seemed to be. This is on display on the 3rd track, The News. Particularly on the drums. Drummer Nate Otani seems to often just pound on his instrument as hard as possible with no clue as to how this sounds with the rest of the band. The drums end up being one of the most overpowering and distracting part of all of these songs. After reading through the press release, I found out that the entire band is experimenting with instruments they have never played before. While I give them a lot of credit for venturing out, you can tell that they are inexperienced. They have little bursts of greatness that novice musicians have, but overall, they are just average.

The final offering on the album, Movement, nicely showcases the last point that I want to make about this album. The start of the song brings us a poppy little keyboard rift that get the toes tapping and the body moving. The rest of the song, however, leaves me flat and wanting to just zone out on the couch. Pictorials is advertised with “Dance” right in their description and, therefore, I was looking forward to listening to this album and moving. And a few times, it did make me want to move. Those moments were few and far between though.

I can’t say that I would recommend Pictorials’ debut EP to anyone. I think the band has some potential to really polish up their sound, practice their chosen instruments and write some good lyrics. If they could do that, I would pick up their next offering. As far as Learning is concerned, I’ll let them keep it in the classroom clubs of Portland and go back to listening to the bands that have graduated.

About The Author

Nick is a web developer at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. He helped start this site back in 2009 as a way to share his passion of comics with readers and hopefully give advice to people on what to read and buy. When he isn't reading comics, Nick enjoys running, cycling and swimming. He is always training for his next running race or triathlon. Nick is also passionate about the outdoors. Along with his wife, Annie, Nick likes traveling to the various national parks across the country and they have a goal of visiting every national park in their lifetime. The couple lives in Grand Rapids, which, in their opinion, is the greatest city in the world. Living there helps fuel one of Nick's other passions: beer. He is a self-proclaimed beer geek and living in Beer City USA certainly helps to keep him rich in his favorite libation.

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