The Submarines

Declare a New State!

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How better to accurately convey the pain of breaking off a long-term relationship than to write and record songs about it with your ex-significant other? Apparently, Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti couldn't think of a more appropriate way, and what came out of those sessions (which eventually led to their reconciliation and marriage) was Declare a New State!, their first album as the band the Submarines. Needless to say, it's sad, pretty music that finds them reflecting about themselves and where they went wrong, never blaming anyone specifically but never accepting full responsibility, either. Each of them (they sing tracks both together and separately) puts pretty much everything out in the open for everyone to hear ("On Super Tuesday I wanted to die...I'll never vote again," Dragonetti whimpers in "Vote," referencing their breakup, which happened on the eve of the 2004 California presidential primary), leaving little to hide behind. This actually becomes kind of tiresome; it's as if the Submarines don't quite trust their audience to get their not-so-subtle references. In "Brighter Discontent," Hazard sings lines like "I rearranged the place a hundred times today/But the ordering of objects couldn't hide what's missing" and "All these things should make me happy...to be home again," rendering her point quite clear, but as if there were a possibility you might not understand her implications, she throws in a bridge with the phrase "Love is not these belongings that surround me/Though there's meaning in the memories they hold" to really drive things home, a gesture that while perhaps innocent enough, is not necessarily welcome. There are some wonderfully poignant lyrics in Declare a New State! as well ("You got a way with words/Just sentiment without revealing how you feel," Hazard states in the gorgeous "The Good Night") that work well with the gentle guitar arrangements and melodies (which don't so much jump from the record as blend smoothly in with the layers of instrumentation) the band chooses to employ. It's all very nice, but there's not much that sticks when all is said and done, which is the album's biggest problem: its lack of distinctive qualities. It's not boring -- there are still a lot of drums and the occasional indie electronica effect on the record, but it's not going to leave any long-lasting impression, either. The music on Declare a New State! was certainly a useful tool for Dragonetti and Hazard, but it's a little too self-involved to do as much for anyone else.

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