Sinai Vessel Sprint Toward Greatness with ‘Brokenlegged’
When this website was just starting to become something other than a place that I would come to post an album review once every month, there was a feature we ran called Bands on a Budget. I’d like to take a minute to apologize for that name because not only is it awful but it had almost nothing to do with the content. The idea was to troll through Bandcamp and find pay-what-you-want releases that didn’t suck. In the first, and I believe only round-up, I shared a link to Sinai Vessel’s (still) incredible Profanity EP. This was one of the first records that I can remember appreciating the softness of — rock music that hit without having to be rough around the edges. Even though Sinai Vessel was just Caleb and a revolving door of talented friends at this point, Profanity showed enough promise that Sinai Vessel quickly became a band that I knew I had to keep an eye on. Apparently, the rest of the community felt the same.
A year passed and Sinai Vessel signed to Tiny Engines with the promise of a new record in the near future. That same album was recorded, scrapped, and recorded again to make sure that it was the best body of work that they could put forward. In late 2016, the record was given a name (Brokenlegged) and we got our first taste of new music with “Dogs.” On it’s own, the song delivered on the promise of the promise of Sinai Vessel’s previous body of work; the edges are still soft and lyrics are still poignant. It still feels like Sinai Vessel, if only more refined, thanks to the addition of Daniel Hernandez and and Joshua Herron.
Brokenlegged feels at its home in its history. The songs flourish and feel lived in, each of them spilling over into the next creating an album that plays more like one cohesive thought than a scattered collection of ideas. The songs are stories that have been built up only to be torn down in the hopes of being rebuilt in a way that conveys all of the emotion that is packed into them. You can hear it in the swell of the strings that bring us into a crashing open on “Looseleaf” and again in the way that it quietly and seamlessly brings us into the threshold of of “Ramekin.” Without the opportunity to read over the lyrics, one might miss out on the way Caleb uses a different “idol” each time that they’re singing “Comfort in the idyll/Comfort in the idyll.” Each of these is used in a way that reads out like the timeline of human existence. The first, “Comfort in the idyll” is used to talk about feeling at home in a sense of warmth and happiness; to feel at home in the feelings of youth and being alive. The second, “Comfort in the idol” ouches on the idea of feeling at home in faith, and being comforted by the sense of community that comes with it. The final, “Comfort in the idle” explores the idea of feeling at home in the idea of living a life without purpose; existing just to exist. That may seem it’s just a minor detail, but it’s these little moments that add a whole new layer of depth to songs like “Ramekin.”
These moments of subtlety are sprinkled throughout the whole of Brokenlegged, although they aren’t always lyrical. For instance, right after “Laughlin” transforms from the kind of bouncy track that you could just float through into a crashing and cathartic moment of release, there’s this brief moment of reprieve that gave me goosebumps the first, second, and even the third time that I heard it. In the scope of everything that’s going on in this record, these couple of seconds are nothing. A single star in the still expanding universe of the album, but it’s a moment that caught me and continues to do the same whenever I decide to seek it out.
The record is constructed so masterfully that y ou won’t even mind the cliche of the penultimate acoustic track when you get to hear “Died On My Birthday.” Caleb’s vocals are gentle and work well in this setting. The vibe is reminiscent of early Into It. Over It., but the lyrical prowess is something that immediately reeks of Sinai Vessel.
That feeling of being “lived in” that comes from the history these songs share works to create one of the first true masterpieces of 2017. Sinai Vessel knew when to be quiet and when to come at you with everything they’ve got — with the moments in between feeling like they’re serving their purpose. It’s a record that will tug at the heart-strings of fans of bands like Pedro The Lion, Death Cab for Cutie, Slow and Steady, and Mansions. Brokenlegged is dour and wordy; a haunting and relentless experience that will continue to push and pull you back in until you recognize it’s genius.