A spotty debut from Raleigh newcomers
Morning Bells, a Raleigh-based, indie five-piece, have introduced themselves to the world with their debut EP, Fall from the Velvet Sky. For a five-song project, the EP clocks in at a somewhat hefty 24 minutes. With minimal stylistic variations from track to track, the group’s first release is a somewhat disappointing outing with a few bright spots.
The first track, “Ghost Story,” is definitely Ric Denton’s best performance as both a vocalist and songwriter. “Get my story right” is the first of a few different memorable refrains Morning Bells creates across these five songs. Unfortunately, while “Ghost Story” is mostly solid and enjoyable, it also introduces the band’s tendency to ramble on just a bit too long. In the case of “Ghost Story,” it might the lack of a proper chorus, but elsewhere on the project, it can be any number of factors. On tracks like “Through The Dark” and “The Truth Is,” interest in the song expires quite a bit before the runtime concludes. Other negative factors include limited instrumental variation, uninteresting lyrical content and unenthused vocal performances.
The fourth track, “The Night You Touched My Hand,” introduces a softer side of the band, and is probably the best on the EP. The tender chorus (and the way the corresponding instrumentation breaks down at these moments), “the night you touched my hand/ and you didn’t let go/ the night you touched my hand/ and now I know,” recalls the moment when a deep human connection became clear. Here, most of the flaws from the first few of the band’s songs are muted, if not non-existent. While “The Night You Touched My Hand” shows immense promise, the closer, “Tonight,” ends the EP with a whimper. Maybe the worst track on the EP, “Tonight” feels like a non-committal attempt at the vaguely alternative-leaning pop-rock that made Third Eye Blind into ’90s superstars.
At their worst, Morning Bells sound all too comfortable in the already well-trodden waters of alternative rock. At their best, they might not be all that original yet, but they can still provide an interesting take on this genre. Fortunately, the group sounds genuinely interested, not just bored. Their earnest attempts just fell short. Because they clearly have a passion, it is expected that they will continue to expand their sound. They might either produce a full-length project with a more unique and forward-thinking sound, or lean into their influences, and create a throwback sound with their own personal twist. In hip-hop, Griselda Records, led by Westside Gunn, Conway, and Benny the Butcher, have managed to do just that. They built a grassroots fanbase independent of any major-label backing, through providing an updated (but still grimy) take on the golden age of hip-hop. Maybe Morning Bells will take a step back from the creative process after Fall from the Velvet Sky, and come back in a few years with a genre-revitalizing alternative classic. It’s clearly possible. We’ll just have to wait and see.