With Lions is a horse of many colors. This time they’re white.
Despite being a two person team, With Lions are big on ambition. The duo of Christian Celaya and Woody Ranere were once the singers/guitarists for their own respective bands, New York City’s Benzos and Baltimore’s Lake Trout, and came together after a shared tour spot in 2005. Their collaborative effort known as With Lions works as both a band and a production team composing scores for television and film. You may be wondering why we’re just now finding out about With Lions considering the years that they’ve been together. Where’s the music? Well, there’s lots of it…so much that the group is releasing a string of four-EPs-a-year beginning with Touch The Sound. Uninterested in being constrained to a particular sound or genre as in their previous bands, Celaya and Ranere have blazed through a multitude to create a new experience on each EP. So what sound is With Lions touching on this debut EP?
Touch The Sound is most comparable to the arena rock of alternative music acts like Coldplay, Muse, or Temper Trap. With intentions aimed for a stadium seated audience, With Lions power through these five tracks with spacious guitars and echo-y vocals. The “oh oh ohhh” chorus of the opening title track begs for listeners to chant along, and like any insect’s powerless ability to refuse a glowing light, listeners will answer back. Coming out the gates with Touch The Sound’s somewhat mainstream alt-rock focus kind of disappointed me after reading up on the band’s appreciation for shoegaze and Hans Zimmer film scores. There are plenty of nameless bands copping this very sound in With Lions’ debut, and almost all of Touch The Sound comes across as vanilla.
One bright spot is the next to last track “Leaving Me”. Its moody, looped piano and strings give way for serious Phil Spector worship with swelling bass and ghostly echo in a room full of noise. This is what I would expect from a band influenced by numerous sounds. Nothing on Touch The Sounds is offensively unlistenable, even for music snobs, though the generic rhyme of it all is kind of a letdown. Take “To Be” for example; it’s another epic arena ready track — feet rested on the pedals, guitars squealing to the rafters – that’s tugging for the heartstrings. But the only emotion that I could derive from it was this is a good rock song. So if With Lions were emulating Muse or Temper Trap, they pulled it off perfectly.