CD Review: Bell X1

Blue Lights on the Runway

By Taylor Toothman |

Imagine you are sitting in a window seat on a red-eye flight. As you coast toward the runway to take off, the blue lights of the lane markers come into view. They’re individual dots at first, but then as the plane picks up speed, the little lights blur into one waving, neon streak that acts as a buffer between you and the world that baffles that a 100-ton metal bird can defy gravity. The music you hear in the distance that gets louder and louder above the roar of the engine as you take off? That’s Bell X1.

From the get-go, anyone can tell that Bell X1 is obsessed with imagery and wordplay. Their fourth album’s title alone gives the sense that the band is touching on something deeper, and way cooler, than many of their contemporaries.

Once they take off, they bring their listeners up with them into the clouds; it’s one big party, filled with music so bright and exciting that you can hear the band smiling as they sing. It’s beautiful, ambitious and just plain awesome.

The album bursts through the stereo with the initial drum beats and hand claps of “The Ribs of a Broken Umbrella.” A slightly fuzzy filter on Paul Noonan’s vocals adds a wacky touch that melds perfectly with the bass synth, and the many voices on the chorus make it feel alright to jam along, like chanting summer camp anthems at a bonfire with a group of lifelong pals.

What is this I hear in “A Better Band”? Cow bell? If that alone doesn’t make it terrific, try this line on for size: “The world is bearing down on me like a fisheye lens.” Enjoy.

“Light Catches Your Face” is Bell X1’s contribution to the great tradition of balladry. Noonan’s voice is obviously suited for both belting and whisper-singing. The shuffling guitar and meandering piano create a mood so incredibly intimate and touching, Noonan could surely swoon an ice queen into buying a Hallmark card.

“The Great Defector” is my number one song for spring. It’s bouncing with funkiness, hand claps and twisting metaphors that I’ll gladly take another listen to get. The chorus bangs out synths and organs like nobody’s business, and Noonan’s vocals are sassy and piercing.

Bell X1 is “coming in to land,” but as they do, they tear through the world’s sense of The Norm, begging us to “love the color of it all” and remember that life is supposed to be an adventure. Even if you don’t understand English, these songs will help you understand life.

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