Band of the Week: Through the Sparks

Music Features Through the Sparks
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Band of the Week: Through the Sparks
Hometown: Birmingham, Ala.
Fun Fact: Lazarus Beach was recorded in a garage with a finicky pool pump that flooded the space twice. The pump's buzzing is audible during the album's quieter moments.
Why They're Worth Watching: Infectious melodies and wry, thoughtful lyrics make Through the Sparks a delight to listen to and perfect for summer mixes.

It's no surprise that the members of Through the Sparks are longtime friends who forged their relationships in high school over shared bottles of stolen whiskey while listening to early morning blues radio in their hometown of Birmingham, Ala. Their music exudes familiarity, a sense of comfort and cohesion that is hard to find in journeyman bands cobbled together from want-ads or other artificial means.

"We've always been music dorks," says singer and multi-instrumentalist Jody Nelson. "[We've been] playing music together in one capacity or another since we were young kids."

The shared history and direction has helped the band hone a sound that is replete with complex baroque-pop arrangements, yet instantly resonant, grounded in thousands of songs we all know by heart, and love to death. "Writing and playing music is just a part of the obsession that brought us together in the first place," Nelson says, and on their first full-length record, Through the Sparks extend an invitation to join that obsession, to sit out in the backyard with them, pass the bottle, and let the intricacies and subtleties of the music flood the senses.

The sterling indie pop of Lazarus Beach is a welcome breath of fresh air from a band that clearly loves music without pretense or posturing. Each track is finely tuned to appeal to the music geek in every listener, full of bouncy, loping piano melodies and softly-muted horns that support verbose, clever lyrics. "Mexico" is a darkly-sardonic satire of manifest destiny run amok, tracing America's westward sweep through buffalo bones and big dreams all the way to contemporary suburban sprawl, using the buzz words and empty promises of progress against themselves every step of the way. When Nelson deadpans, "Let's see how space-age these polymers can be," it is at once incisive, poignant and hilarious, an artifact of a faraway time that's recognizable but long out of date. "When you can hear a song, and have to work really hard to tell if it's new or old because it's just good, that's inspiring," Nelson says.

they share with artists they admire such as Neil Young and The Band. Still, the band tempers it with an over-the-top pop reminiscent of Wings and ELO ("If Jeff Lynne walked in the room right now, I'd grab him by the beard and kiss him right on the mouth," Nelson claims.), which keeps the music vital and living.

Nelson hopes that listeners come away from Lazarus Beach looking to share the music with those they love, and it's apparent that this record is something special. It's precious music, not in a cloying, saccharine way, but because every song is loaded with the passion and purpose that makes music truly great and affecting. Through the Sparks has plenty to spare, and they make sure that Lazarus Beach is the kind of record that will remain close to those who hear it for many years to come.

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