For fans of: Alabama Shakes, Civil Wars, Cold War Kids, Kings of Leon, Mona
Sporting an unusually long name – it’s a clause, really – Cali duo In The Valley Below begin to thread a story long before one hears their music. Juliet Capulet once asked, “What’s in a name?” For In The Valley Below, the answer is, quite a lot. The band’s backwoods-sounding moniker gets its roots from Bob Dylan’s song, “One More Cup of Coffee” – One more cup of coffee ‘fore I go / To the valley below. Whatever inspired Memphis-born Jeffrey Jacob and Michigan native Angela Gail to choose precisely that lyric for their band name is not altogether that important – the symbolism can be interpreted in any number of ways – but the name fits: With their debut album The Belt released in late August, In The Valley Below make a Memphis grit-infused version of synth pop/rock that somehow manages to be simultaneously mellow and driving, laid-back and in-your-face.
Listen: “Neverminders” – In The Valley Below
Songs like lead single “Peaches” and “Neverminders” sound a bit like a southern version of Cold War Kids, but that analogy doesn’t really work considering the band resides in Echo Park, CA. Furthermore, In The Valley Below offers several distinguishing features that makes it a unique act at this juncture: Like Civil Wars before them, Jacob and Gail are not your average music-making duo; rather, they are dark, airy, experimental and creative: Their music strikes a comfortable balance between synthesizer and guitar-driven rock. The two musicians switch off vocal duties on their music, often choosing to accompany each other in the chorus through graceful harmonization or careful overlaying. The approach works wonders, and the band’s hour-long debut album keeps its listener enthralled from start to finish.
Deeper cut songs like “Dove Season,” “Lover,” “Searching for a Devil” and “Medicine Pocket” find In The Valley Below exploring topics ranging from lovesickness to freedom and reckless abandon. This carefully crafted music doesn’t mind extended pregnant pauses between sung verses, if it means the music gets a chance to build and develop. This lends In The Valley Below that laid-back, “chill” vibe that so many bands strive for but fail to achieve: The song structures flow naturally, unencumbered by adherence to traditional pop standards, yet often falling in and out of those boundaries with seamless ease.
Listen: “Peaches” – In the Valley Below
The pair – accompanied by Jeremy Grant on keyboards and Joshua Clair on drums – have explored an extensive breadth of musical diversity on their debut, what with the applications of samples, layered synths, and more utilized not only for their intended effect, but also applied to new contexts – such as the percussive ahhs that introduce “Medicine Pocket” and the brass/trumpet solo toward the end of “Palm Tree Fire.” Is it a real trumpet, is it a synth, or is it a guitar? Does it even matter? While there is always room to expand one’s sonic wealth with instrumentation and the like, In The Valley Below use what they have to make an entertainingly heavy, emotional and promising debut album.
In The Valley Below have been continuously on tour for a good while now, so catch them while you can! They have recently been supporting indie rock band The Airborne Toxic Event on their North American tour, and can be seen at New York’s Terminal 5 this Tuesday, October 7th. You can view the band’s full touring schedule here.