Oct 052011
Authors: Joe Vajgrt

Blind Pilot’s debut album “3 Rounds & A Sound,” had a sparse quality, mostly consisting of acoustic guitar and vocals from front man Israel Nebeker and attenuated percussion from drummer Ryan Dobrowski.

The band’s sound was forged while the two founding band members completed a tour along the West Coast, lugging their instruments by bicycle all the way from Bellingham, Wash. to San Diego, Calif. on custom trailers that the two designed and built themselves.

Playing dozens of shows and camping along the way, Nebeker and Dobrowski played not only to packed bars and coffee shops, but also to handfuls of truckers in empty parking lots.

It seems apparent that the intimacy of these latter performances was ultimately responsible for the subtlety of the music the duo wrote and performed early on. After achieving a degree of success purely through word of mouth, the two headed for the studio to record the songs they had created on their maiden tour.

After being impressed by their debut album, fellow Portland, Ore. indie folk heroes, the Decemberists, invited Blind Pilot to open for them on their national tour. In order to fill out their sound for these shows, Nebeker and Dobrowski added four new members to the band’s lineup.

The four new multi-instrumentalists and backing vocalists added upright acoustic bass, mandolin, banjo, vibraphone, trumpet, piano, organ, ukulele, violin, dulcimer, harmonium and pedal steel to the band’s mix.

When the band returned to the studio earlier this year to record their follow-up, “We Are the Tide,” they decided to bring the entire band with them. The result is an album with a fuller and more expressive sound, along with a much sunnier disposition than its predecessor.

That’s not to say that the new album doesn’t have its more melancholy moments, though. Slow-burners like the standout tracks “White Apple,” or the alt-country twang of “Just One,” are good places to start with this band. Other highlights are the uplifting opening track, “Half Moon,” and the bouncy title track, “We Are the Tide,” both of which showcase some of Blind Pilot’s happier offerings.
The quality of the Blind Pilot’s songwriting is ever present on “We Are the Tide,” with Nebeker again penning an album full of super-catchy folk songs with hooky sing-along choruses. If you’re a fan of quality independent folk music, you’ll be glad you found them.

Ãœber-nerd and music lover Joe Vajgrt can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

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