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Album Review

In most cases, bands don't become conflicted until their second or third album, but strangely enough, on Settle's first full-length, they already seem to be enduring an identity crisis. Blame it on the fact that Settle's been together (in one form or another) for almost eight years (an eternity in emo years) or blame it on the fact that "emo" has become a relatively unsavory stamp, with many mainstays of the genre trying to wash their hands clean of any traces of the term (their labelmates A New Found Glory for example are referring to themselves as "pop punk/rock/hardcore" on their Myspace page). But as most punk-pop groups either try to rekindle their punk roots or look to pop standards like Sgt. Pepper's for inspiration, Settle has instead decided to go the indie/dance route. To boost their credibility, they hired a producer who's capable of molding a nice, thick — but not overly slick — indie rock sound. Enter Adam Lasus (producer/engineer of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and Yo La Tengo), who lent his expertise to At Home We Are Tourists.

Calling in reinforcements to give Settle a musical make-over seems like a logical move, considering the group members' genre-spanning tastes, but even with the addition of indie flair — handclaps, melodica, whistles, and glockenspiels — their music still sounds undeniably emo at its root. With the exception of a light, acoustic-based Neutral Milk-esque ballad ("Sunday, Morning After"), all of the songs fall into the sensitive-but-energetic category with big hooks, top string guitar riffs, aggressive distortion, and fun, youthful harmonies. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Settle's in their comfort zone playing material suitable for the Vans Warped Tour. But when they drift too far over into Bonnaroo territory, as they do on occasion, the music sounds forced and generic. Piling on the instrumentation only saturates things more, as the definition of their chops gets lost among the myriad of other sounds in the mix. The grimey dance synth of the "stand up to your parents"-themed "Naked at a Family Function," and the Franz Ferdinand meets "Don't Fear the Reaper" jam "On the Prowl," are the exceptions and manage to cut through and make a decent attempt at dance-rock. However, the group's at their best when they stay close to their roots and play quick and heavy numbers with crunchy guitar octaves like "Affinity for My Hometown," "Murder," and "Dance Rock Is the New Pasture," a surprisingly synth-free song that showcases their ability to shred and shout. In that vein, the bombastic, syncopated chorus of "Kick. Win!" is an epic grower worth hearing. If they can keep moving in this direction, the boys in Settle might be onto something big.


Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Emo-pop group Settle formed in 2001, when frontman Nick Rose and his younger brother Willie Rose started playing guitar and drums together as teens in their high school in Easton, PA. The two burned through a string of members in their early years until their lineup was ultimately finalized when the Rose brothers added guitarist Dave Goletz and bassist Chris Burcin. Settle self-released two EPs and performed diligently, touring bars and clubs in the Midwest and on the East Coast for nearly six years...
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At Home We Are Tourists, SETTLE
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