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Album Review: Colleen — Vol. 1

Colleen is a Cedar Rapids-based husband and wife duo that delivers a beautiful, often soaring mix of bombastic live percussion and electronics buoying silvery vocals. Heather and Tyler Stück built excitement over the past months by releasing two of the tracks as singles in the lead-up to their new 4-track EP, titled simply Vol. 1.

Colleen hit the studio last year with Cedar Rapids-based producer (and Four Star Fate guitarist) Tim King, who also brought his recording sorcery to the debut Dickie album. The Vol. 1 EP has a lot going on sonically — layers upon layers of instruments and effects that are crisp, bright and defined. In headphones the sound is gigantic. Even with all of this going on, the melodies in the songs delivered by Heather’s distinctive, aching soprano vocals never struggle to float above.

The standout track for me is “Thumbs.” In an interview on KRUI’s “Local Tunes” in October, Heather said of the song, “A lot of people hide behind technology now, or, if they aren’t hiding behind technology, they are sucked into it … Hiding from the real world on that phone instead of communicating personally.”

The use on “Thumbs” of vocals and stripped down percussion for the verses that build to the huge chorus relies on the time-honored loud-quiet-loud composition style pioneered by the Pixies to great effect. With lyrics like, “I numb myself with lit up thumbs // brighter than the morning sun // hide behind what’s become. // Say my prayers, and hold my tongue,” it captures the lonely and myopic mode of communication we’re seemingly trapped in these days.

Among the other strong regional releases recently, Vol. 1 is distinctive in its electronic plus live percussion approach. A comparison to Purity Ring, which the Stücks admit is an influence, is a lazy one. There’s more at work here than those similarities; there’s an attention to composition and production that results in seamless and polished, hook-filled melodic pop that sticks around in the listener’s head long after the music stops. Please bring on Vol. 2 soon.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 216.

About The Author

Michael Roeder

Michael Roeder is a self-proclaimed “music savant.” When he’s not writing for Little Village he blogs at playbsides.com.

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