01. Tread, Not Trudge
02. What We Could Not Move
03. Ashes Of Giants
04. Seek Harbor
05. Voices Resound
06. Rows Of Tops
07. No Bearing
09. Name Names
10. Legs. Limbs. Wings
2008 Level Plane Records
In sound and presentation, Sinaloa are of another time. They hark back to the medieval ages of early and mid-90s "emo," evoking its communal spirit, which has all but been drowned in the deluge of blog-bred hype and messageboard dustups. They include explanations for their songs (commonplace a decade ago) and are musically indebted to the greats of the time, particularly Moss Icon. You hear their ghost in the Tonie Joy-like guitar melodies and the Jonathan Vance speak/shout vocal deliveries.
While most nostalgic bands rarely have it in them to break free of copycat musical rituals, Sinaloa show great strides since 2005's Footprints on Floorboards. Ocean of Islands sounds fuller and warmer, as if the band wrapped their new songs in an electric blanket. Their past material tended towards skeletal, ribs-sticking-out thin production, thanks in no small measure to their lack of a bassist. Yet they manage to beef up their new record with meaty helpings of thicker guitar moments and colossal drum tones.
With opener "Tread, Not Trudge," Sinaloa demonstrate their embrace of new techniques. The song, more optimistic in sound and lyric than past material, twinkles with vibraphone and a buried acoustic guitar. It's reminiscent of Steve Lilywhite's production on U2's Boy, and the overall sound of the record is equally as lush. A trumpet appears on two tracks, further proof Sinaloa has no interest in treading well-trod screamo pastures.
"Ashes of Giants" is their apex, a shimmering, and glorious panegyric to all that is right and good with hardcore, punk rock or otherwise. Propulsive, cascading drums and guitars charge beneath a dual vocal attack, giving way to guitar melodies straight off of It Disappears and a barrage of snare hits and tumbling tom rolls. They then launch into the rousing chorus, the yellers announcing: "No more will the giants bend the earth." The song is miles ahead of most bands attempting to recreate the howling beauty of proto-screamo.
"Seek Harbor" features plucked, Tom Verlaine-like minor chords, creating a woeful tone befitting the lyrics of loss and confusion. You feel like you're seeking harbor, desperate to find refuge from the raging storm of life's vicissitudes. The wailing backing vocals sound like mourning doves cooing balefully at dawn. Who knew a band could blend Indian Summer and Television
What makes Sinaloa a superior band is the inventive style each player brings to the table. Though they sound like they've listened to an unhealthy amount of the Vermiform Records catalog, the guitarists deliver unique performances. More so than past output, they sound strangely like the twin guitar/no bass attack of Sleater-Kinney, brittle though brimming with hooks. The drums are at once ramshackle, teetering on the brink of total collapse, yet always remaining precise and focused.
Their lyrical message is just as crystal clear, in no small measure due to the inclusion of explanations. As they sing, their message includes "a hope so strong." It's a refreshing departure from the consistent overuse of irony, cynicism and nihilism amongst most guitar-based angry bands. No, Sinaloa want more. They might see us as "oceans of islands with no shore," but they dream of community, communication, progression. What band reared on the 90s wouldn't
Bottom Line: Though they've long been associated with the DIY hardcore screamo end of things, Sinaloa show no interest in being fettered to that sound. They're still keeping it real in the DIY sense, but they've demonstrated their desire to musically and lyrically progress as a band.