When Jarrett Lobley’s voice comes in at the beginning of Not Made of Miracles, it’s clear what’s going on here: dark melodies mixed with hopeful lyrics, something potent and austere. The piano-heavy, slow tempo of “Dark Waters” reminds me vividly of Trent Dabbs (an obscure reference, but if you know him then you’ll know what I mean). “There’s something valued in the road less taken,” he begins. “All my efforts will deliver,” and Signs To The City harnesses the sweetness of sour. The songs, although elegant, aren’t too memorable or catchy, which is probably the only thing keeping Signs To The City out of the limelight. Still, you don’t always need catchy. Jarrett, Joel Klassen (guitar), Tim Iskierski (drums), and Earl Pereira (Bass) pepper in tasteful synth layers. The kook is restrained.
“Rockets” showcases the quintessential 2018 pop rock: synth drums propelling a loud chorus and hook and then dropping quickly to instrumental sparsity over the verses. These songs don’t have the oomph that, say, “Unstable” has. This is dignified pop, like mid-career Goo Goo Dolls or latter day U2. “So many have left/ You stayed strong,” Jarrett sings over the hopeful chorus.
The best track, however, is “The Line”, which harnesses vocal harmonies- something Signs To The City often does well- and a hook that, well, hooks. Like some of the best indie rockers out there, the prettiness lies among the rise and fall of intensity and balances grace among the darkness. One fault of this mature, educated band is relying on colloquialisms. Here, they go with, “There ain’t no way out of here,” and if the line didn’t descend otherwise perfectly, I couldn’t let the word choice go.
These songs are overall good in construction, and the production matches the band nicely. Maybe the vein is The Killers or Kings of Leon, but NMOM is a more restrained, patient album than anything those big shots have ever done. More of a fan of 90’s rock than 80’s pop, I’ll admit that I wish Signs To The City would drop the Talking Heads influence and breathe into the next decade. Too much synth doesn’t allow me to take this record as seriously as I’d like to.