Album Review: The American Scene - 'Safe For Now'

13 August 2012 | 12:39 am | Staff Writer
Originally Appeared In

The American Scene at their most sincere.

It's rare when a band is able to match the calibre of a near-perfect debut on their follow-up, but California’s The American Scene make it seem easy. The band’s latest release, Safe For Now, has already received an incredible amount of praise, with many claiming the record as an improvement on its predecessor, By Way of Introduction. I’m reluctant to say the same, but not because I dislike it; to me, Safe For Now is, for the most part, such a departure from their previous material that I find it hard to compare the two. The result is still a triumph, and with the band’s progression into a more sombre sound, Safe For Now is subsequently The American Scene’s most honest work so far.

It’s apparent from Safe For Now’s opener, ‘Just Say It’, that this is a special album. The guitar flows smoothly, while vocalist Matt Vincent’s phrasing instantly commands attention. ‘Blood Orange’ is a real high point, containing subdued verses that break down into an aching chorus, with Vincent singing, "If this is what you call love, well then I’ve had enough."

Hungry Hands’ is musically more upbeat, a contrast to the song’s sober lyrics, with guitars that swirl under Vincent’s pained vocals. The intricate guitar work complements Vincent’s dark vocals in a similar way on ‘When You’re Undone’.

In keeping with the majority of the songs on Safe For Now, the slow-paced ‘Fifth and Natoma’ demonstrates a restrained intensity. ‘Shape Shifter’ maintains that feeling, with an increase in tempo as the chorus hits and Vincent sings in sync with wailing guitars, "I thought I told you, I’d only break your heart if I had to".

An echoing guitar provides the intro to ‘The View From Here’, leading into Vincent softly muttering, "I wanted you to know that your impression still holds my heart in place". The track has an understated anger to it, peaking when Vincent sighs, "I’ve had enough", leaving the remaining minute of the song to his bandmates. Acoustic track ‘Untitled’ is raw and completely stripped back, further showcasing Vincent’s vocal honesty.

Used to You’ is, in my mind, the pinnacle of Safe For Now. The song is revitalising, both musically and in its somewhat hopeful lyrics, with Vincent reasoning, "If you try, I think you might find something here that’s worth the fight."

Safe For Now displays an overall maturity that, while present on By Way of Introduction, is much more prominent on this record. There’s an effortless quality to the album, and although generally speaking, the songs are sonically similar, this adds a sense of cohesion rather than monotony. It can’t be denied that The American Scene draw inspiration from their peers, but nevertheless, Safe For Now is a record with no fillers and no major low points.

1. Just Say It
2. Blood Orange
3. Hungry Hands
4. When You're Undone
5. Fifth and Natoma
6. Shape Shifter
7. The View From Here
8. Untitled
9. Used to You
10. Safe For Now