When it comes to a band making themselves like mastodons, you have to give it to Of Us Giants, who have done a fantastic job of it on debut album ‘Nova Scotia’. The California trio impressed when ‘All Of My Daughters’ was premiered here in December, ahead of the record’s release last month, and now the full LP is out there it’s time to see if the rest of the tracks live up to the potential the first showed off.
The first, snare-pounding notes of opening track ‘Liar’ sounds like they’re building up to an explosive introduction. What does come is an arguably muted start compared to what may have been expected, though the vocals soon fire up and the rest of the ensemble follows pretty quickly after. On the topic of the vocals, you get the fleeting impression in ‘Liar’ that there is something particularly Biffy-like about what Of Us Giants bring to the table. The comparison is fleeting on the album opener, but following track ‘Sycamore Tomb’ will more often than not have you double-checking which band you’re playing on the first listen. It’s a solid track, perhaps one of the record’s best, but the inevitable Biffy Clyro comparisons are likely to weigh it down. Luckily, this does not become a running theme for ‘Nova Scotia’, and the addition of singer-songwriter Lindsay Pavao into ‘Iron Boat’ as the last notes of ‘Sycamore Tomb’ die away perhaps helps to cement this fact. ‘Take it Home’ is another step up, with heartfelt vocals giving the track a thunderous edge. With ‘Nova Scotia’ barely a third of the way through and already leaving a solid impression, you get the sense that Of Us Giants are on to something with their debut release.
‘Dying’ is a more laid back effort than what the alt-rockers have let loose on the album so far, though it doesn’t burn out without a little emotional power. A spoken word outro leads you into previous taster track ‘All Of My Daughters’, nestled into the middle of the record and ensuring that momentum doesn’t tail off as ‘Nova Scotia’ continues into its second half. The main strength of the three-piece continues to be the chorus of each track; where the verses are a little sub-par the refrain doesn’t fail to give the track its kick, and even when the verses are hitting the mark the chorus still manages to shine. Each steady build-up has a more than suitable payoff, and it’s hard to be at all disappointed when any of the tracks end. Perhaps the best example of this is ‘A Beam Offshore’, slowly building to a huge crescendo, and sounding simply magnificent when it all comes together. Unfortunately, ‘Stone Hands’ has less of a solid build, and while its closing stages are exactly the kind of massive sound that you can start to expect from the trio, the near four minutes that precede it are mostly spent toiling with little progression. One slightly paint by numbers effort doesn’t derail a whole album by any means, however, and luckily the track that follows is the album’s best. It’s a sure-fire way to restore any lost momentum the record had, and the penultimate track is a perfect place for its finest flourish.
Lindsay Pavao returns for ‘Nova Scotia’s farewell piece, its title track and one where all the strength boils down to the duet between Pavao and Of Us Giants vocalist Dustin Andrews. The final, scorching outburst is led up to quite magnificently and as Andrews’ screams of “don’t go” die away to signal the album’s conclusion, you’re left in silence to contemplate the fact that this may be one of the best rock debuts to come out in 2014. It’s hardly an easy claim to make at such an early stage this year, but the California trio are looking pretty damn hot right now.
‘Nova Scotia’ by Of Us Giantsis out now via Close to Home and Ronald Records.
Words by Antony Lusmore (@metacosmica)