Northwest Energetic Indie Rock
Not many drummers in the indie music scene have an eclectic history with numerous bands in the narrative of indie rock, but Joe Plummer is one of those few. His musical contributions include work with Modest Mouse, the Shins and Cold War Kids. Yet Plummer is multifarious — he does not need to be the drummer of big names to be successful, as is made evident by his newest release. Built In Sun, his first effort at a solo record, proves not only is he a solid drummer, but a tasteful musician in his own right.
Built In Sun opens with “Honeybear,” a fast-paced, energetic sound of raucous indie garage rock with a hint of surfer elements in the chord voicing. The song is quite an introduction to a record that moves and grooves quickly. The bass, guitar and drums move in sync with no noticeable leading instrument, which helps to benefit the track in its shape and build the integrity of the song.
This record could have benefited from a more diverse variety of vocalists to season the mood of the album, especially since it sounds so close to his past work with other bands, namely the Black Heart Procession. That being said, Plummer recruited singer Pall Jenkins, lead vocals from the Black Heart Procession. Jenkins is most renown not for his vocal ability, but his talent with mixing moody lyrics and happy garage indie rock.
“Honeybear,” the intro track is littered with classic Jenkins-like lyrical patterns with lines about two loves that cannot seem to put it back together, “What happened to my heart/what happened to my soul/what is it that I’m waiting for?” Lyrically, this album is pretty dark in regards to the music itself, which isn’t exactly surprising when you consider Jenkins’ prior lyrical experience.
Similar to “Honeybear, in “1313,” the first slower track of the album, harmonies are picked out by a keyboard, slight lead on electric guitar with little licks that connect the rhythm section together. Vocally speaking, this song denotes melodic lines akin to the National, except higher in tone. The guitars harmonize with Jenkins to create an emollient melodic movement throughout the song.
Perhaps the tracks that stood out the most were “Due to Rain” and “Live Mate.” The first track that broke the mold of the indie rock style was “Due to Rain,” laden with intricate drum patterns and ambient bass lines that flutter around in the background. Certainly one of the most interesting tracks, though it tends to feel a bit claustrophobic.
“Live Mate” tells a story through the music, and to that end, is one of the most experimental tracks on the album. The only vocal lines, “I’ve gotta get over you, I think I’m over you,” are sparsely repeated. The drums have excellent tone and the somber guitar gently compliment the message of the song, a brokenness but unwillingness to dismay.
Plummer originally sought to create a different sound with this record, but after employing Jenkins the songs appeared to shift to shared territory. While this was not an uneducated decision, Plummer could have made a more diverse collection of songs with different voices to accompany the tracks to flesh them out. Built in Sun runs the gamut of indie music, from anthemic and somewhat repetitive vocals to an in-sync session of instrumentation that all seem to be marching with the same mission.
Plummer may not be a household name, but his impact is certainly noted. The future will look kindly back at his first solo debut — it’s sometimes hard to tell when a musician meets another milestone, but Built In Sun will be considered one of those in a decorated career such as Plummer’s. Built In Sun is an album that could be fun to revisit in a few years. It’s an easy listen, it’s littered with all the classic elements of indie garage rock, and it grooves in the way indie rock should. Fans of Plummer’s previous work will most assuredly not be disappointed; however, this album is not ground breaking, not even for Plummer himself.