By: Derek Spencer
Ironically pluralized, The Bonds are the solo project of one Massachusetts-based Benjamin Finn. Charged with compositional theatricality, Finn’s 2014 debut In Transit takes the classic theme of external-change-causing-internal-strife to task with minimalist acoustic expertise.
A naturalized musical theater quality permeates the album, most evidently observed on tracks like “Collect Call” and “Overtime” in which clearly defined metaphors and demonstrative lyrics mingle with signal-oriented songwriting. I believe I’m supposed to use the word rock opera here, but this project feels more natural and less forced than that phrase might imply. A transitional period is conveyed, given movement by atmospherics and experienced slowly over the course of the album.
On opening track “Into the House”, Finn’s maddening repetition of the line “I think I’m going crazy” utilizes an experiential approach, allowing the audience to imbibe of the referenced status quo insanity. Directly following, “Freight Moves Fast” leads us through a landscape of chorus and tremolo effects, implying blurred movement and creating the sonic equivalent of the albums blurred cover art. The combination of “Fetch” and “Under” mark perhaps the most exciting segment of the album, establishing a soft underhanded depression before exploding into destructive dissonance. The 7-minute title track serves well as the slow-burning climax it was meant to be.
The Bonds’ musical touchstones are clear. The vocal delivery and poignant drama of The Antlers are referenced on tracks “Too Far Gone”, “In Transit”, and “Housekeeping”, while Sujan Stevens can be felt throughout. Though “derivative” is technically a complaint that could be levied here, In Transit is too raw to be a total imitation, too personal to feel stale. Amateur production stands to be the biggest enemy to Finn’s work, though the imbalances and uneven mixes add charm far more often than they detract or distract.
At its core, the album exudes a coldness– a distinct lack of warm bass frequencies, neatly rounded tracks, or relatable hooks. Practically penning his own tagline, Finn sings on “Sun Shine Away”: “I miss the warmth”. Exciting, nerve-wracking, and elusive, In Transit evokes the melancholy of transition and invites listeners down its winding winter path. I suspect many listeners will be unable to refuse.