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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

With Hands, Eyes, and Ears Open:

With Hands, Eyes, and Ears Open:

When most Americans think of Scotland, we think of Braveheart, Trainspotting, or whisky. True scotophiles may also think of MacBeth or Monarch of the Glen.

In addition to its long and often bloody history, Scotland also has a history of producing great names in popular and independent rock music. Children of the 80s may remember Annie Lennox, Simple Minds, and the Cocteau Twins. Perhaps you’ve also heard of KT Tunstall, Del Amitri, Franz Ferdinand, Belle & Sebastian, Average White Band, The Reindeer Section or Primal Scream?

You may not yet have heard Dundee, Scotland’s Snow Patrol.

Indie-kids added Snow Patrol to their mixes with the band’s 1998 debut Songs for Polar Bears, whose title references a previous incarnation of the group. How could you not love a Scottish indie band with chops big enough to cover “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce Knowles as a B-side? (Yes, the bootylicious singer from Destiny’s Child and Austin Powers Goldmember.)

The band relies on atmospheric, pop-tinged melodies, shimmering keyboards, and distorted guitars characteristic of the Glasgow alternative scene of the 1990s, overlaid with lead singer Gary Lightbody’s floating tenor.

The band’s breakthrough single arrived in 2004 with their third album Final Straw. The album had already topped UK charts when New Jersey native Zach Braff (Broken Hearts Club, Scrubs) included the song “Run” on the soundtrack to his cinematic ode to his home, Garden State. The band’s fourth disc, Eyes Open, builds on Snow Patrol’s signature style.

Songs like “Make This Go On Forever”, “Headlights on Dark Roads”, and duet with Martha Wainwright “Set the Fire To The Third Bar” hypnotize with dark imagery and minored vocal chords.

“You Could be Happy” and “Shut Your Eyes” lend a sense of acoustic purity to the album. (Both were recorded live in one session; you can hear chairs creaking, breathing, and feet tapping in both, but it just adds to the mood.)

The self-described “emotional knife-twisting” of Lightbody’s lyrics is absent from the album’s biggest single to date, “Chasing Cars.” Like “Run”, “Chasing Cars” is a deceptively simple love song filled with ‘gardens bursting into life’ and ‘wasting time chasing cars around our heads.’

“Cars” gets a lot of radio play across the FM band in Boston, from Emerson College’s eclectic WERS 88.9 to Top 40 Music-In-A-Can Kiss 108. Whatever station it’s played on, it’s almost always followed by a moment of silence and the DJ saying “Wow, what a beautiful song.”

True to form, Eyes Open starts with aggressive guitar riffs and builds to a rousing, uplifting finish. Repetition of a single chorus ‘tell me that you’ll open your eyes’ and increasing production layers in “Open Your Eyes” pull listeners willingly across “The Finish Line.” This last track reminds us that finish lines are ‘good place[s] to start.’

If there’s any justice left in the music industry, Eyes Open should be a starting point for even better things from this quintet.