This review was originally posted on absolutepunk.net May 24, 2008. The EP used to be free, but it’s worth paying five bucks for.
Brooklyn, New Yorkers Pete Weiland and Tyler Soucy, otherwise known as A Great Big Pile of Leaves, have returned with a sequel to their first release aptly titled The Fiery Works II. And, like before, they are offering this EP on their website as a free download. You can’t ask for a better deal than that, so how about you go download The Fiery Works II right now, then come back and finish reading this review? Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Are you listening? Good.
For those not in the know, these two fellas recorded The Fiery Works releases as DIY projects with Weiland covering guitar, bass, and vocals while Soucy played drums and worked on recording and production (with The Fiery Works II Soucy also took a swing as mastering). Granted I haven’t listened to The Fiery Works as much as The Fiery Works II, but I quickly established the latter as the superior EP.
An instrumental track titled “sleepsleepsleep” starts The Fiery Works II off, and though it fits the mood of the album, I’ve been known to skip over it on repeat listens. The band hits their stride once Weiland’s high-pitched voice breaks in; he has a better grasp of his own vocal ability on this EP compared to The Fiery Works, and his range is especially impressive as he sings background for himself on “Drought of Snow” (more on this track in a bit). The sound of the EP is relaxed alternative/melodic rock that isn’t boring. Comparisons have been made between A Great Big Pile of Leaves and acts such as Minus the Bear and The Appleseed Cast. I’ll admit I’m not familiar with those artists, so I checked out some of their songs on Myspace to hear for myself. The comparisons seem fair, but I should point out A Great Big Pile of Leaves also have a pop flair that makes them easily accessible.
Reading over the lyrics I’ve found multiple references to the outdoors and the feelings the changing weather and seasons bring. Such is the case with “Bring Back Recess” in which Weiland sings, “It’s going to be a lovely day / Despite all the sunlight getting in the way,” an appealing sentiment to people like me who appreciate cloudy days. This outdoor-centric pattern continues in the previously mentioned song “Drought of Snow”: “Missing the snowflake on the tip of the tongue / That tasted of all that I have ever known to love / Stay outside all day / Never go inside.” These are the kind of words that should be fed to kids who keep themselves caged in with television and video games when there’s a world outside waiting for them.
At first I accepted The Fiery Works II as an enjoyable EP lacking standout tracks. But I have found on repeat listens that the EP builds itself song-by-song until it culminates with “Drought of Snow.” The combination of Weiland’s high backing vocals and an assisting trumpet raise the song to a new high for the band; everything works so well together in this song.
I usually strain in adding length to a review, but it seems I’ve overstayed my welcome this time, so here’s a quick closing statement. I wish more bands would offer their releases as free downloads – exposure is key in such a cluttered market. But even if free downloads were the norm, The Fiery Works II would still stand apart as a special five-track set.