I have been a fan of the band Blind Pilot since their debut album 3 Rounds and a Sound, which was released back in 2008. The Portland, Oregon-based band has a perhaps unusual advantage in alternative rock bands popular today: a lead singer, Israel Nebeker, with a gorgeous voice. Their sophomore album, We Are the Tide, was released this past September, and the band is touring extensively throughout the U.S. to promote it.
Nebeker and his friend Ryan Dobroski originally conceived the band as a duo. The name came from their original touring plans, which consisted of bicycling from city to city with homemade trailers for their instruments attached to their bikes. They didn’t know where they would play next on this environmental tour, hence the name. This unconventional tour, along with the strength of their debut album, brought Blind Pilot success.
In 2009, the group added four more members to their touring roster, and began opening for big names like The Decemberists and Counting Crows. Eventually, they began headlining their own shows, and playing big musical festivals like Washington’s Sasquatch! and Chicago’s Lollapalooza.
Blind Pilots second effort is as successful as its first. The tenderness in their music with their careful vocals, unironic lyrics and thickly layered instrumentation made them stand out from other bands of their ilk to whom sardonic messages and odd instruments (dobro? Accordion? Twee ukulele? Put ‘em all in there!) take too much focus from the music’s quality to its novelty.
This time around, Blind Pilot includes many more upbeat songs than the first album, choosing a west coast, sunny sound that is in contrast to many of the deep and brooding songs of their first effort. Particularly successful in this style of song “We Are the Tide,” which is downright beachy with its “ah” background lyrics, California guitar riffs, trumpet and lyrics like “Tonight I’m in love with everybody on the city bus.” “Keep You Right” is a successful traveling song with a rollicking guitar and drum repetition propelling the song through the singer’s variety of destinations and states-of-being.
That’s not to say that the band hasn’t forgone its introspective and sad songs, either. The best song on the album is the first, called “Half Moon.” The song uses Nebeker’s full vocal range to create a climatic chorus almost reminiscent, unusually, of Coldplay.
Will you pick up a copy of We Are the Tide?