Givers’ “In Light”

“Givers will no doubt jump from one musical idea to the next, never quite settling…” -Grafton Tanner

Grafton Tanner

out of 10

In Light
June 7, 2011

Louisiana afro-poppers Givers have all the ingredients for a good-time band. Some guy-girl call and response, plentiful percussion, a dainty glockenspiel for good measure, some tasteful noise courtesy of synth pedals. It’s all so earnest and endearing that it’s hard to find fault with a good time, to turn face from the fun that afro-pop/indie pop has to offer. The problem with Givers is they are the definition of amateur songwriters. Caution is thrown to the wind and everything is thrown in the pot. The end product is something akin to afro-prog. Stylistic left turns in the middle of songs. Virtuosic drum fills. A sudden ritardando and then the breakneck recovery. In one five-minute song, Givers will no doubt jump from one musical idea to the next, never quite settling and always relying on flashy twists and turns to carry their songs. One trick’s all it really takes, and Givers is a one trick pony.

The members of Givers were previously involved in zydeco projects and the like prior to forming the band, and the influence is very immediate. With all the unique qualities zydeco has to offer, Givers could really be in a class all its own. But they fall victim to so many cringe-worthy pitfalls. By track two, they’ve already succumbed to the allure of the obligatory 50’s pop song (everybody’s gotta have one!) that is rife with singalongs and Givers’ typical stylistic interruptions. It’s memorable but only because it boasts somewhat of an impressive hook. Following it is a bunch of filler and jam freak outs that leave you exhausted and annoyed. When I reach “Ceiling of Plankton,” the only song with some sort of unity, I feel as if I’ve got afro-whiplash.

And this feeling populates the entirety of In Light. Just as something possibly intriguing begins to settle in the brain, they’re off flying in another direction. For all its flashiness, Givers has a really hard time writing hooks and melodies that stick. Transcribed to paper, their parts would be fun and challenging to play, but on the receiving end, it only feels like you’re being physically assaulted with instruments. In Light is Vampire Weekend meets Dirty Projectors, except Dirty Projectors are skilled at arranging song structure while still remaining formally experimental. And Vampire Weekend can at least write a decent hook. In Light could be an excellent album. It could be a ripe blend of styles. But instead, it comes off as over-indulgent and in need of severe editing.