Shiny Around the Edges Secrets of the Double Blind

Reviewer: Josh Honn

It’s interesting how some bands describe themselves and how others perceive them. It is the never-ending debate of who sounds like whom, who sounds like what, and what sounds like what. In the end, it all doesn’t matter one lick yet is an unfortunate reality art faces in today’s world. Bands have to be compared, contrasted, put into boxes and dissected in order for the majority of people to have some sort of reference point of what they may be buying is all about. Shiny Around the Edges will bring this up for a lot of listeners. The band has a very interesting way of describing themselves, writing, “Residing in Denton, Texas, Shiny Around the Edges is an atmospheric band that enjoys libraries, wide-open prairie spaces, NPR, Sonic Youth bootlegs, and Billie Holiday records. The band strives to create songs that serve as tone poems amongst the high grasses and wildflowers that make the North Texas prairie a pastoral wonderland.”

At first listen Secrets of the Double Blind (a limited edition, individually handmade and self-released CD-R) may remind many listeners of the mighty Low. Slow, dark with female and male vocals playing off of each other, simple percussion and crescendos that end abruptly all lend credence to such a comparison. Even the band’s genetic make-up of two guys and a girl fits the profile (though the girl doesn’t play drums). Anyway, the band of Jennifer (guitars, vocals), Michael (guitar, vocals) and Josh (percussion) do create exactly what they set out to accomplish. Their subtlety and simplicity will remind listeners of prairies, but their often chaotic and more experimental guitar sounds veer from the pastoral to the aggressive, suggesting a love/hate relationship with their own environment.

While influences of Low and Sonic Youth do abound, Shiny Around the Edges are quite original. At one moment the lush vocals of Jennifer are sweet as a summer prairie, but in an instant a rumbling storm can open the skies with layers of distorted guitars and heavy floor tom thumping scaring away the birds. It’s quite an interesting dichotomy that a lot of bands could never pull off, but this one does. Secrets of the Double Blind is an album full of dichotomies of sound, influence, and genre. "Jesus is Coming" is a Spacemen 3-esque song with ambiguous religious meaning. "Just Below" is a Low influenced slowcore ditty. "The Ghost of Ted Lavender" is a pure noise experiment. And, "In the Heart" is a folk song complete with found sounds, field recordings, gorgeous guitar picking and wondrous cymbal work. Secrets of the Double Blind even sees Shiny Around the Edges do an amazing cover of Depeche Mode’s "Waiting for the Night" (which says a lot because Uncommon Folk is a huge fan of Depeche Mode and not a fan of cover songs), making one wonder again about the spirituality guiding the band’s output.

So, while at first one might seem to have Shiny Around the Edges pegged, they toss you loop after loop until you come to your senses and realize that comparison is futile and that the band has an incredible range which in the end all combines into a coherent yet ever-challenging whole, making them one of the more interesting bands around while forcing the lover of music to question the meaning of sound, art, life and why we are so quick to pre-judge and pre-package our existence and everything we do within it. The answer may lie in the dichotomous sounds of Shiny Around the Edges’ music: that we don’t know much about our own existence and our need to put ourselves at ease and live the safe life of ignorance often clouds our need to explore, learn and create without constraint. Luckily their are still plenty of explorers out there—like Jennifer, Michael and Josh.