There are MANY-a-band in history that fall into the category of "their older stuff is the best". Circa Survive is an obvious example of this label. A band matures with it's members and as a result, their sound will change. It is inevitable. Circa has undoubtedly lost a lot of fans as they simplified their songs and took their time recording and tweaking them. Of course, inversely, they have gained many fans by writing songs that speak to a broader audience and not just [us] music elitists. There's also that special group of fans that have stuck with them since the beginning and can appreciate whatever music they may produce because it is still art, it is still flowing from the same creative minds and hearts, and it still rocks more than a lot of other crappy bands that are out there right now.
That being said, Circa Survive's new EP, Appendage, is great! Most of the album has a fairly "poppy" sound, but it works. You can hear the maturity and growth in each track. Anthony's lyrics seem to describe advancing in life, human error, and looking forward to change, as opposed to fearing it. The first track, Sleep Undergroud, is mellow and drumless. As a "demo" it has a sort of raw sound to it, which gives [us] original fans hope that Circa hasn't forgotten their roots; Especially when Anthony's classic backup vocals kick in, sounding beautifully raw and slightly disconnected. The way they used to throw his random self-harmonies in the background of the songs just added to his already mysterious and emotional vocal style. The effect is often apparent in his own Avalon album.
The next two tracks have that very ear-pleasing quality that makes you nod along and possibly even project the word "yes" into your mind. I previously mentioned them sounding "poppy" but by no means are they "bubblegum", so don't worry about putting your masculinity in jeopardy. Colin and Brendan are playing off one another's guitar parts more creatively than they previously had been on the last couple albums. On their 2007 album, Circa Survive - On Letting Go, the two of them began to separate from each other, defining more of a lead guitar and rhythm guitar relationship in the songs. On the next album, 2010's Blue Sky Noise, this trend continued, especially with the use of a slide on a few tracks, but there are also tracks displaying their unique playing styles, alone, or together. The tracks on this new EP clearly showcase this and help to further cement what each musician's personal and combined style is. The way they feed off each other's riffs is reminiscent of the song Act Appalled, a fan favorite track from Circa's 2005 debut LP, Junturna.
One can never count out the rhythm section on a Circa Survive album. Appendage is no exception. Nick's bass drives the songs. His over-driven bass sound provides the perfect platform for Brendan and Colin to do whatever they'd like to. His precise and perfect choice of notes seem glued to Steve's always cool and creative drumming. The two reek havoc on every song.
While I am sure at least a couple, if not all of the songs from Appendage were written and likely recorded during the Blue Sky Noise session, they are unique to their own collection. The choice to weed them out from the final album bodes well for this Circa Survive fan. One can only hope they have more unreleased, B-side material that will be available to us soon, since we all know that, with any band, the B-sides that didn't make the album are always the sweetest songs.
Favorite tracks: Sleep Underground, Backmask