The American Scene – “Haze” Review

Posted: by Colin

Listen to Haze while you read!

Listen to Haze while you read!

Trends, bands, and artists come and go, time passes, and the process repeats itself. With this in mind, there’s something to be said about being different. Having a unique sound allows an artist to stand out and provides them with a competitive advantage in the always cyclical, sometimes cynical, music industry. Few musicians create works with lasting value or crowd differentiation in mind. But how does this unique art come to be if an artist doesn’t consciously think about how the songs they’re crafting may alter the status quo? It’s rather simple, because the unique and lasting art, the music that makes me think “I will listen to this in 10, 20, or 40 years, and it will always remain relevant to my life” are the creations that when you listen you instantly know that this work is coming from a place of genuine purity, and integrity. These works are great because of the fact that they are the natural creation of a truly unique expression.

The American Scene is one of those bands creating art from a purely authentic perspective, and in doing so, have crafted an incredibly memorable discography. The band’s new album, Haze, could not have come to fruition without the platform that was created by their debut album, By Way of Introduction, and Safe For Now, their sophomore album, which was an emotional rollercoaster and a critically acclaimed fan base expanding release.

Haze is a well-constructed, flowing, and moderately-paced-hooked-filled album. Not to belittle those factors as they do contribute to its enjoyment, but to focus solely upon those components would be an injustice to Haze and The American Scene, who have accomplished so much more than that. Haze is a slow burning, rhythmic, meticulously calculated 10 songs that fit together like a jig-saw puzzle, to create a type of chilling, atmospheric aesthetic, perhaps only capable of being created by a few guys from northern California.

Likewise, performing surgery on the album – dissecting it and picking out its high and lows – is not a constructive or fair analysis. Haze, more so than anything the band has done previously, is meant to be listened to as a whole. The album should be viewed in chapters, because it’s more about a collective theme and sound, rather than singles or stand out moments.

Chapter 1, the first 10 minutes of the album, are characterized by fading optimism, and the burden and uncertainty of it, as heard in the lyrics of the opening title track, “I don’t know who would want to live forever in this place, I don’t know who would want to live forever in all this haze”. Dark choruses, smooth vocal patterns, and glossy, meticulous, almost manufactured guitar work, categorize the 3 songs. The track “Nails of Love” showcases The American Scene’s significant growth as songwriters in the last couple years, and it is the band’s slickest and most rhythmic track to date.

Chapter 2, the next 10 minutes, is anxious. The calm before the storm, “4th and Broadway” and “Dark Creak”, seamlessly transition to help set the stage for the epiphany in the next track, “What I Could Gather”.  In this track it is as if there is a recollection of vocalist Matt Vincent’s thoughts, as if the reality of his problems have finally caught up to him as he sings, “I never meant to make it what it wasn’t, I never could recall what I was missing”.

“Over To You” and “White Widow”, the 2 songs next in the sequence, complement each other well. “Over To You” starts off fast paced, allowing demonstration of the unique guitar work, where as “White Widow” begins slowly, letting listeners hear the echoing percussion and delicate, hollow baseline. Despite this contrast, both songs contain the loudest, and most emotionally charged two choruses on the album. The summation of the tracks allows the listener to hear The American Scene’s self-aware pessimism that they must collectively face: “The truth is I was never honest before this”.

In proper form, Haze closes addressing The American Scene’s own inflictions. The curtain closes with “Drone” and “Brume”. The titles are short, sweet, and to the point, much like the songs. A sense of closure and newfound relaxation is on the horizon, as the songs are significantly more upbeat and positive, both lyrically and musically. The lyrics, “Forget what you started with, whatever happened to the rest, forget what you started with, whatever happened, happened” in “Drone” urges one to move on past previous barriers while learning from them.

If you’ve listened the band previously, Haze may or may not be the progression you thought was going to occur. But to put Haze in context, it is undoubtedly the most unique and interesting album of the year. The ambiguous tones, troubling, complicated, perplexing themes, glossy sounds, tame, sweet vocals, album art, pre-release decoder puzzles, and “haze-drops” contribute to the mystique and aurora of the work of art that is Haze. The focus on attention to detail, both within the music and through their innovative marketing campaign pre-release, allows music fans everywhere to see the type of masterpiece the band tried for, and in the end, accomplished. The American Scene have made one hell of a lasting contribution, and have left their footprint within the alternative scene fans will not soon forget. 

– Colin