I wonder how sick of this CD my coworkers got, because I honestly don’t know how many times I played it one week. It always seemed to be on the top of the stack of CDs on my desk. When I reached for a new CD to listen to while working on MySQL databases and PHP code, Quiet as It’s Kept always seemed to be the first choice. Of course, I sometimes wonder if my officemates just tune out whatever I listen to. Lord knows how many CDs I bring to work, all of them by bands they’ve never heard of. It’s a real shame, because with Quiet as It’s Kept, they don’t know what they’re missing.
My first reaction to Quiet as It’s Kept was that “Millions of Miles” was a solid pop song, followed by an album’s worth of lesser tracks. Now, I realize that “Millions of Miles” is probably the best lovelorn pop song I’ve heard in months, and the rest of the album just took a couple of listens to really sink in. Take Weezer’s geek-rock formula, throw in a few Celtic moments (those bagpipes will get you every time), some little New Wave-isms, a couple of liberal doses of Christian spirituality, and plenty of “boy meets girl, boy writes mopey songs about girl” moments.
It’s a mixture that doesn’t seem to hold a lot of promise, but The Billions do it quite nicely… aside from a few uneven moments. One minute, you’re listening to some cheeky ode to mean girls (“Picture of You”), the next a moving ballad about the Easter story (“He Advances”) or a shimmering rendition of a favorite Christmas carol. But what I might find uneven, another might just as easily find lovably quirky. But that’s about the only complaint I can really think of. The band lists The Flaming Lips, Radiohead, and Starflyer 59 as influences, but I’m more inclined to think of Weezer and The Rentals, and — how’s this for odd? — even early Violet Burning (at least on some of the more overtly religious tracks).
But what I’m more amazed at is that this a self-released disc. Maybe that’s a clichéd thing to say nowadays, with all sorts of great unsigned talent out there. But in this case, it’s really quite justified. The Billions know how to write indie-pop odes to unrequited love that know all of the right ways to tug at the heartstrings (the aforementioned “Millions of Miles”). They know how to combine interesting arrangements with great melodies and hooks (maybe due to their apparent affinity for classic rock). Heck, they even know how to use freakin’ bagpipes without sounding silly!
I’ve seen several posts on various mailing lists espousing The Billions’ virtues. Apparently, these guys are quite the thing down in Kansas. And at first, I kind of sloughed it off. But every time I listen to songs like “Millions of Miles” (if you can’t tell, I really love this song) or “He Advances,” I just wonder how it’ll be before they become “quite the thing” all over the place.