Where did it start? How did it all come together? Why were these instruments chosen?
On "How to Fall," the fifth track on the Early Day Miners' "The Treatment," released Tuesday on Secretly Canadian Records, we get a rare glimpse into this process.
On the album's best song, we have the opportunity to hear a complex composition come together, piece by piece.
"How to Fall" starts out with the simple sound of a conga drum and bass with singer Daniel Burton singing lightly over the top.
After one verse, a lone guitar and shaker are added. Shortly thereafter, we get a second guitar, some light organ in the background and the full drum set.
Even now, though, the guitar parts are spare and there remains room to grow.
Finally, at about the 2:20 mark, a tambourine kicks in and some effects are added to the lead guitar part.
The song is finally starting to sound full.
About a minute later, Burton unleashes an unexpected high note, and the song has now hit its high point. We have the next two minutes to glide to a close with some strong guitar work and prominent organ over the last 30 seconds.
The song provides listeners the rare opportunity to hear a song "built" from a simple idea with a couple of instruments to a full arrangement. It may or may not be the way these guys compose a song, but it certainly feels like an insightful journey.
The journey is especially rewarding when taken in the context of the entire album. This isn't a band that favors the classic guitar-guitar-bass-drum combo. There are organs, loops, different percussion instruments and guitar and bass processed to sound like cello or brass. Three of the eight tracks are also over six minutes long.
Insight into this band's process is a complicated thing.
While "How to Fall" may be the most interesting song on the record, "So Slowly" is the one that gets stuck in your head. The combination of a driving bassline from Jonathan Richardson and drumming by Marty Sprowles is catchy enough, but guest vocals from Daun Fields harmonizing with Burton produce a haunting chorus.
Add to this some nicely distorted guitar work from Burton and John Dawson, and we have a song whose nearly seven minutes pass quickly.
It's the small details in these arrangements that reward listeners of the album. It's the syncopated drumbeat on "The Surface of Things." It's guest vocals by Fields on a number of tracks and Kate Long on "Silver Oath" adding a feminine touch to the music. It's the folky guitar arrangement of "Silver Oath" that seems out of place, yet closes the album perfectly.
While billed as this Bloomington band's poppiest album, this album doesn't scream Top 40. It's a moody, complex record that rewards repeat listens. This one engages you as long as you engage it.
My spin: B-
While not for everyone, the Early Day Miners have produced a keeper with "The Treatment." Sometimes modern rock is limited to punk rock roots, but the Miners remind us there is another side to indie rock.
The album has its ups and downs, for sure. For all the interest and catchiness of "How to Fall" and "So Slowly," there are also forgettable tracks like "Becloud," which plods on for more than eight minutes without really getting anywhere.
Overall, though, it's more than worthwhile.
Some listeners prefer the ease of fast food, but if you're looking for the courses and nuance of a five-course meal, this album will fit your palette quite nicely.
Early Day Miners
Early Day Miners are: Daniel Burton-vocals, guitar; Jonathan Richardson-bass; Marty Sprowles-drums; John Dawson-guitar
Additional players: Daun Fields-vocals; Kate Long-vocals on "Silver Oath"
Producers: Daniel Burton and John Dawson
Released: Tuesday on Secretly Canadian Records