Plumbiferous Media

Nine Ways – The Chairs

Nov 12th 2009
Nine Ways - The ChairsThe Chairs
Nine Ways
Score: 98

The Chairs released its first full-length last spring, and has since produced two EPs, and now a second album. Due out on the 17th, Nine Ways is simply an incredible album, something not even the outstandingly high quantity of work The Chairs produced this year could stifle. The album showcases nine rather unique ways to die, or more accurately, to be killed, not only in each of its tracks (during which a total of eighteen people pass away) but on the various album covers (yes, there are multiple covers), each corresponding to a track and method of death. But Nine Ways is not just more morbid than the band’s last album: it is also more experimental, more detailed, and more intelligent. Nine Ways is nothing short of an amazing album.

Other than occasional dull patches such as in “Time Machines, pt. 2,” Nine Ways is, in every way, a near perfect album. The delicate intertwining of the two guitars on “Biggest Fan” is followed by the outrageously loud, hilariously indulgent “Charlotte Pipe.” No track loses direction, either within itself or within the broader sense of the album, and every track showcases the musical talent of the band. “Elephant Sea” tops them all. An eight-minute-long epic, it sounds like nothing ever played before and something few would dare to repeat. Traveling through previously undiscovered chord progressions and digressions, it alone makes the album worthwhile.

The amount of attention spent on matching everything perfectly is simply ridiculous. “Requiem” opens with an organ, the instrumental climax of “I Wish” is perfectly placed, and the dreamy sound of “Hot Air Balloon” perfectly showcases its uniqueness. And the same amount of attention was clearly spent on immaculately recording the album. Best shown on “David,” the detail in each percussive note is astounding.

Alex Schaaf’s striking vocals haven’t weakened a bit since The Chairs’ excellent debut, Laugh, It’s a Fright. In fact, thanks in part to the sense of experimentation around Nine Ways, they have developed and improved to fit the new highs and lows of The Chairs’ changing style. Nine Ways is in many ways a more somber album than Laugh, and Schaaf proves that he can handle such a mood in as skilled a way as the (mostly) light mood of the earlier album. At the same time, however, neither Schaaf nor The Chairs as a whole ever lose the sense of whimsy which makes their music so enjoyable.

A combination of vocal styles, from the deeper, more harmonious style of “David” to the simpler style of “Charlotte Pipe,” to the horrifying innocence of “Biggest Fan” gives Nine Ways an impressive sense of variety, preventing it from ever seeming stagnant or repetitive. Even the eight-minute “Elephant Sea” remains interesting thanks to yet another creative vocal style (this one an intense, omnipresent sound). Layering and vocal effects are used expertly throughout the album, including on “Walk You Out,” further developing the vocal sound of the album. Every bit of the energy which made Laugh such a great album is present here, used in a variety of creative ways.

In the words of The Chairs, Nine Ways is nine “tales of life and death” (with the “death” part of that dichotomy thoroughly emphasized). The Chairs handle such a topic with their typical creativity, without allowing it to weigh them down unduly. Yes, it’s dark – but it’s dark in a way that only The Chairs could manage. Each of the nine stories that make up the album is quite well constructed as well as thought-provoking, beginning with “David,” which chronicles the death by burning of the title character: “David don’t you know / That you’re on fire / That you’re on fire?” As David counters with “I’ll be a martyr,” Schaaf tells the entire story, introducing each of the main characters: Susan, who “left him,” Margaret, who “was trying to put you out,” and the rest, who sing “Wait for us… the flames are coming faster now.” David’s tale is only the first of nine frankly incredible stories of this sort – by turn intriguing and amusing, surprising and strange.

“David” is followed by “Biggest Fan,” a tale of admiration (and perhaps love) for a serial killer told from the perspective of the admirer which (by the narrator’s estimation) will eventually end with the death and dismemberment of the narrator and the execution of the killer (“I will be there when you’re in the chamber / When you’re sentenced for your bad behavior / We’ll go down in history together”). “I Wish” tells the story of a psychopath singing “I wish that you loved me / I guess it would be nice / If a ring upon your finger / Required no sacrifice / For you undivided attention / For your head upon a plate.” A stanza later, it’s revealed that the guillotine-happy killer is Henry VIII – and the track is suddenly as amusing as it is bloody. “Hot Air Balloon” tells the tale of a man sent away in said balloon by his lover to float away into space. By the end of the album with “Requiem,” eighteen people have died (the names of the deceased are conveniently listed throughout the track). The album ends with a clip saying simply “And then his [the narrator’s] heart gave out and he was dead.”

Nine Ways is colorful, strange, and intensely morbid. But more than anything, it is an absolutely fantastic album. After Laugh, It’s a Fright earlier this year, we were expecting a great second album, and we certainly weren’t disappointed. From the starting point of its already excellent debut, The Chairs progressed immensely higher. Combining the energetic musical creativity of The Chairs with Alex Schaaf’s excellent vocals and utterly amazing lyrics, Nine Ways is not only a great second album for The Chairs, but easily one of the best albums this year.

“Charlotte Pipe” from Nine Ways

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5 Responses

  1. […] Chairs are on their East coast tour supporting their new album, Nine Ways, which has been getting lovely reviews. They’ve also made their previous album Can We Be Friends? available as a free […]

  2. […] – “The Chairs released its first full-length last spring, and has since pro­duced two EPs, and now a sec­ond album. Due out on the 17th, Nine Ways is sim­ply an incred­i­ble album, some­thing not even the out­stand­ingly high quan­tity of work The Chairs pro­duced this year could sti­fle. The album show­cases nine rather unique ways to die, or more accu­rately, to be killed, not only in each of its tracks (dur­ing which a total of eigh­teen peo­ple pass away) but on the var­i­ous album cov­ers (yes, there are mul­ti­ple cov­ers), each cor­re­spond­ing to a track and method of death. But Nine Ways is not just more mor­bid than the band’s last album: it is also more exper­i­men­tal, more detailed, and more intel­li­gent. Nine Ways is noth­ing short of an amaz­ing album.” Review from Plumbiferous: […]

  3. Alex says:

    Album slays.

  4. […] reviews like, “One of the best albums of the year…a near perfect album,” says Plumbiferous Media as they give the album a score of 98 out of 100.  I’ll post a link to listen to the entire […]

  5. […] from Appleton Wisconsin, are fresh off of their record release tour for Nine Ways, and album that Plumbiferous calls, ”One of the best albums of the […]

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