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Music review: Defining Times 'Separate Tongues'
Defining Times ‘Separate Tongues' (self-released)
When Defining Times made its live debut in early 2011, the Chase Kerby-led group of Oklahoma City/Norman MVPs quickly earned a reputation for intricate, powerful and dramatic music, and within months the band could pack a club beyond fire codes with fans riding the emotional waves of Kerby's tumultuous ballads. The band's latest EP, “Separate Tongues,” illustrates that much of Defining Times' power is achieved through intimacy. That tone is set on the opening song, “Kind Words,” in which Zach Zeller's piano is so closely recorded that the hammers, keys and pedals can be heard, effectively working as percussion.
Kerby delivers “Kind Words” through treated vocals, as if he were singing miles away through a megaphone, but then comes through clearly and directly on “Swan Dive,” opening with Alex Coleman's sharp strums as drummer Alberto Roubert and bassist Michael Trepagnier create a rolling rhythm behind the singer. Given Trepagnier's past as an engineer, most tellingly on Coldplay's “Viva La Vida,” it is no surprise that Defining Times' sense of dynamics is impeccable, particularly during the final crescendo of “Streets” as the full melodic force of the band comes together.
The subtleties and sonic grace notes on “Separate Tongues,” like the bicycle bell that opens “Outlaw,” invest these songs with added power. Kerby, who lists Nick Drake and Elbow's Guy Garvey as key influences, has elevated his lyrical and vocal game since his previous band, The City Lives, and Defining Times is now making music big enough for stadiums. Zeller exited the band after the recording of “Separate Tongues” and will likely be missed, but the remaining quartet is signaling with this EP that it is equipped for a bright and beautifully wrought future.
— George Lang