words by tom johnson
photograph by daniel white
We tend to think of emotive guitar music as being resoundingly immediate, those big guitars meeting big hooks in a gleaming burst of fire and energy. And just you try and ignore such things. Sinai Vessel’s new ‘Brokenlegged‘ LP is all of these things, and yet, for reasons that have never needed any defining, it’s a record that needs to be allowed to settle and brood, to be walked with for a while before it lands the kind of blow you were waiting for, and expecting, all along.
Perhaps it’s to do with the fact that both the band, and this new album, seem to defy categorisation. Their first record, actually more the solo workings, at that time, of Caleb Cordes, drew comparisons with the likes of Pedro The Lion and Bright Eyes, while never really sounding like either, and even this record, fully-flourishing band n’ all, never seemed to form any kind of solid consensus among those who heard and wrote about it; Brooklyn Vegan likening Brokenlegged to Death Cab’s ‘Trasatlanticism’ LP, while these ears got dizzy just trying to join such dots between that comparison and what we were taking from it. The point being, if something isn’t easily pigeon-holed then you probably need to find a way of getting inside it, to pull it apart until you either embrace it as an impossible spread of puzzle pieces, or you somehow, eventually, construct it in to some kind of understandable form.
And so a month or so on from its release, with numerous listens across a variety of situations, Brokenlegged positively shines as a beacon of self-trust and progression. Not always in a deep, labyrinthine, meaningful way, but one that resonates even in its most unequivocal moments. Buoyed by self-determination, it’s a record that isn’t afraid to leave it everything on display, even when the message they’re trying to convey doesn’t have a defined, digestible answer. And perhaps, actually, that’s where this record really shines. The messages, both outwardly and those buried within, aren’t always clear, the lyrics that make-up these songs are often vague and/or ambiguous to us, and while the need to decipher such things is a pertinent focus of music consummation, this record takes a new leap of life when we simply sit back and let it wash over in, over, and all around us.
The PR blurb that came attached to Brokenlegged calls the album a document of “zoomed-in determination” and that works as a somewhat perfect descriptor, as much as it’s our job to pen our own. We know these songs and sentiments matter, really matter, but it’s a not always applicable to ourselves and our own journeys, so tied in it all feels with Cordes own life situation. Once you give in to that notion, however, the whole thing makes for a tremendous ride. “Ramekin” remains a delightful blending of buoyant, sincere indie-rock with tender strings, “Dogs” is emo-rock at its most fiery and instantly formidable, while closing track “Cork Of Worry” is the unleashing of all the pent-up aggression and dizzying unease that precedes it:
so i will wait for answers to rise out of the carpet
and believe the point will come to me in dreams
and i won’t get up for anything
i’ll sleep on the floor for weeks
ears pressed to the ground, just listening
“Just listening”. Just listening. Not tearing up the pieces, not fitting them back together to try and make these words and worlds our own, but taking a step back, watching the light rise and fade again, allowing the sentiments of others to take centre-stage, to tell their own story, because they exist and because they do.
Just them, telling. Just you, listening. And so, so much more besides.
‘Brokenlegged’ is out now, via Tiny Engines