Perhaps, I’m a sucker for a well-placed horn, or maybe I’m just a sucker for really intricate drum beats and fills? Maybe I’m a sucker for a good math rock song or a nice jazzy guitar lick? Or is it that I love a good placement of a synth or a nice flowing bass line? Is it the combination of all these sounds and Michi Tassey’s beautiful vocals that does the trick for me? Yes, the answer is yes. If you haven’t guessed yet, I’ve been describing the sound of People like You’s sophomore album Verse, and it’s a near-perfect album.
Its been three years since their last release This Is What You Learned, and the time has done wonders for they’re sound. This album has the sound of an experienced band doing what they do best and taking everything they “learned” and forming it into one of the best releases of this year. People Like You is Chris Lee (guitar/vocals), Michi Tassey (keyboard/vocals), Sander Bryce (drums), Matt Hull (trumpet), and Sai Boddupalli (bass).
Verse opens with the very jazzy/mathy “You Need a Visa,” which sonically resembles bands such as Look Mexico and TTNG. This is the perfect type of song for rolling down the windows in the summer and taking the long way home on back roads. If you enjoyed the summary of sounds I gave in the first paragraph, then this song is the perfect example of all of that coming together in total harmony. At the end of the song, Chris Lee belts out some vocals like a champ that transition very smoothly into the next track “The Baker.”
“The Baker” opens with driving riffs from both the guitarist and drummer. The horn is impeccable hitting just the right notes at just the right time to make the instrumental breaks in the first half of this song complete. Eventually, the song fades into a very melodic ending showcasing the skill of these musicians. These guys definitely have been trained in their instruments and it shows in they’re playing. The staccato trumpet notes at the end are gorgeous.
The second single of the release and third track on the album is “Thumbnail,” one of my favorite tracks of the year. Much like “You Need a Visa,” this track has a very light mathy feel to it and the trumpet is placed exquisitely within the melody. The trumpet behind the vocal melody is incredibly inspiring. Also, the chorus is incredibly catchy. “We’ll find home in between each other’s bodies, intertwined and knotty.”
Conveniently placed after the other single on the LP, “Variations On Aria,” a beautiful airy track showcasing the bands soft mathy chops again. This song is like a soft blanket when Tassey sings “hold me close.” It’s like being wrapped up in it. And there is a more comforting thought to a wandering lost soul then being content with where one is. This lost soul doesn’t think so, but hey, I’ve been wrong before. “This island is a place I’d rather be.” I would suggest, drink a cup of tea and sit next to a window with a light breeze for this one.
After “Aria,” the band takes a break to let Hull show his trumpet chops. “Kneeplay 7: ‘Orchid Hunter'” is a nice jazz layered interlude that slowly morphs the trumpet’s notes to something otherworldly. It’s a nice break from the rest of the album and a trend that repeats throughout. This oddly reminds me of early Sabbath records where Tony Iommi would have songs of just layered nylon guitar in between the shredding. Or, on Yes’ Fragile where every other song is a showcase for each member of the band.
Opening with an inviting soft trumpet melody and a nice clean fingerpicked guitar, “Eulitta Terrace” starts off the middle of the album wonderfully. A synth joins right before the drums come in to give this one it’s driving force. The song takes a left turn when the vocals finally come in and the band gets funky with one of the grooviest bass lines on the album. The horn at the end is that missing piece to that walk home alone in New York City.
“Kneeplay: 8 ‘On Rain and How It Reminds Me of Glass‘” satisfies my want for that acoustic guitar interlude that I mentioned earlier. This one is for fans of early Hundred Waters once it gets crazy in the headphones. Again this band has so many elements, it’s insane. This track is a great setup for the more reserved “Josephine Ave.”
Opening softly, “Josephine Ave” gives that much-needed dose of sad that we all want in an album. Of course, the drums pick things up a bit, but this one stays in that nice mellow, groovy area. The sonic landscape mirrors the lyrics really well in this song, “I’ll love you even more, even if you never wake.”
People Like You immediately picks things back up with Chris Lee vocally dominating the track, “Hackensack Hospital.” A very fast paced song with a beautiful melodic break in the middle. Lyrically this song seems to be dealing with an elderly relative sick in a hospital and trying to cope with that. (Something everybody has related to at some point in their lives.) “How far is heaven, cause I hope its too far to spare the gas.”
“Kneeplay: 9 ‘This Apple is Really Depressed (Reprise)'” is actually a reprise from the last album. It has an acoustic guitar riff reminding me of The Books and a very pretty trumpet melody. This leads us nicely into the final track of the album, “Sleepwalk.” A waltz track with a pretty piano break that flows into one of the biggest moments on the album. The rest of the song becomes one big build until Tassey is screaming, “We’ve all become victims of the shorter days.” A big ending to one of the best albums I’ve heard in months, let alone this entire year.
The magical moments in life are too few and far between. Christmas lost its magic a long time ago and I honestly haven’t planned anything for my birthday for years now. I don’t even get pumped to see shows anymore, but every so often an album comes out that reminds me that magic is still out there. A group of individuals can still get together and create not only original sounds but also great tunes. This is an album I’ll remember at the end of the year and one I’ll keep listening to for years to come.
Favorite tracks: “You Need A Visa,” “Thumbnail,” “Kneeplay 8:’On Rain and How It Reminds Me of Glass,'” and “Hackensack Hospital.”