Countless Others – ‘Countless Others’

Grafton Tanner weighs in on Countless Others’ self-titled release – one of the first from newly formed Boom Done! Records in Atlanta.

Grafton Tanner

out of 10

Countless Others
Countless Others
May 3rd, 2013
Boom Done!

Oberlin resident Sam Fisher makes music under the name Countless Others, and with the exception of a few moments of musical departure, the self-titled album reflects Fisher’s chosen moniker in a sometimes less-than-satisfying way. Countless Others could have come from any laptop and mimics the multitudes of indie artists, the “countless others,” who have copped and rehashed synthpop since Columbia Records cashed in on MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular. It is absolutely rooted in time – that is, somewhere after mid-noughties Cali pop and before Passion Pit’s Gossamer. But despite following a trend that has exhausted itself,Countless Others is never heartless and never seems to compromise.

Whereas other electro producers skimp on the importance of synth melody and tone, Fisher puts his synths at the forefront, favoring complex analog tones over the stock synths pervading contemporary electronic music.  The synths that open “Violent Child” are huge and warm, and as the song unfolds, these lush synths pile atop one another, a rich testament to Fisher’s musical ear. What falters in “Violent Child” as well as in “Secret Word” and “Song of the Spiritually Overflowing Cup” are Fisher’s vocals. Often, he foregoes melodic vocal lines for meandering sing-talking over his tightly orchestrated synthesizers. The opener, “First Night,” as well as the closer, “Why is a Mouse when It Spins,” both have memorable vocal lines that make the album a relatively enjoyable experience. They are also the best tracks on Countless Others.  “First Night” is a beautiful overture of sorts with Fisher’s falsetto bursting through the layered vocals and synth swells. The track resembles the vocals-led introduction to Maps and Atlases’ Beware and Be Grateful, but another more prominent figure haunts this opener and the rest of the tracks on Countless Others – Justin Vernon.  Nowhere is his presence felt more strongly than on “Song of the Spiritually Overflowing Cup,” the ending of which has Fisher modifying his voice with Auto-Tune. Not every instance of Auto-Tuned falsetto points to Bon Iver, but Fisher proves to be a dead ringer for Vernon circa Blood Bank. This is not a weak point in Fisher’s songwriting; on the contrary, the end of the track itself is memorable. Rather, the Auto-Tuned section feels too hit-and-run, and in the context of this wandering song, Fisher seems to be dumping the past few years of indie into one mini-suite. It appears forced and slightly derivative, even if the arrangements are solid and the lyrics, heartfelt.

Indie synthpop is alive and well, still. And none of this is a bad thing, but Countless Others is a nice example of how such a rewarding and fun genre of music can stagnate from overfill. Almost too much can be found in this album, making it less an overwhelming experience and more the product of indie trash dumping. The result is not so much an identifiable, unique “sound” but rather just another indie synthpop songwriter creating enjoyable songs with not much else to deliver.