Recording information: Poo-Pow Studio (2002).
Photographer: Michael Parsell.
Unknown Contributor Role: Brian Sokel.
The title of AM/FM's four-song EP The Sky Is the New Ground is a play on the indie mantra "Quiet is the New Loud" that popped up in the early part of the decade. AM/FM isn't particularly quiet, but they are gentle and they make music that reaches for the sky. Their previous album, Getting Into Sinking, was one of the best of 2001 and this EP serves as a sneak preview of their next record. The first track, "Every Start," is a short, melodic instrumental driven by distorted, tremeloed guitar. "Gone in Three" follows and gives AM/FM a chance to show off their quite beautiful vocal harmonies and heavenly falsetto on a short pop song not unlike something on the Shins' fine debut record. "Mrs. Astronaut" is the EP's centerpiece and it is the most ambitious song they've done. It begins with an acoustic guitar intro that is blown away by a wave of distorted guitars and clattering drums that bring to mind the classic shoegazer bands of the early '90s, yet the sound never points inward -- it radiates warmth and heart out of the speakers. The vocals are incredibly warm and real here, too. The lyrics are about outer space, missed connections, and unhappy marriages, and when the song breaks down and it is just Brian Sokol singing the words, "Dear wife, I'm sorry to be/Not the man you expected of me" over the brokenhearted strum of a lone acoustic guitar, the pain is palpable. The final track is another emotional piece. "All to Remember" is a hopeful song that finds Sokol comforting a friend who is "running scared" by telling them that "Everyday you're running I'll be there." The music is a stately wash of new wave synths and that same brokenhearted acoustic guitar strumming away. When the electric guitars kick in halfway through the song, you feel like you are in a John Hughes movie and you just got the girl or boy; as you're walking down the street, the camera zooms in and you've got just the biggest, most hopeful grin smacked on your face. Yeah, it's that good. AM/FM is reaching deep with their music, making emotional music with melodies you want to hear playing at your prom, your wedding, your funeral. Get this EP and get their next record. If it is anything like The Sky Is the New Ground, it will be stuck in your player for weeks. ~Tim Sendra