by Preston Radtke
Hype is an interesting thing in the independent music world. Local grassroots hype for an underground band usually takes such forms as friends boisterously proclaiming this band to be the next Strokes or My Morning Jacket or Yeah Yeah Yeahs. So often in the indie music world does the hype nearly ruin a band’s work before it is even released, the idea of what they might become overtaking the fact that, as of yet, they only have an EP and a collection of well-placed shows.
The newest attendee to the indie hype parade is the Brooklyn-based garage/dream pop/punk squadron known as Cende. Cende is the perfect natural creation of an indie band: they’re from Brooklyn; they all live in the same house; they’re currently opening for Japanese Breakfast and (Sandy) Alex G; and they even roped in indie favorite Greta Kline to feature on one of their lead singles. Despite the hype and the band’s near-cliché composition #1 Hit Single, the band’s maiden full-length release is a quick yet satisfactory record nearly as obvious as their Brooklyn upbringing. At only 22 minutes, Cende packs elements of garage rock, punk rock, and even facets of dream pop to a saga of sound that on its own may seem un-noteworthy, but in context provides an exciting glimpse into what Cende can become.
Songs: Closing the garage door and staring at Converse
#1 Hit Single is varied and diverse in such a specific way that it feels as if the album is more a display of how many different genres Cende can spill into without coming across as disrespectful or unlistenable. Tracks like “Voids”, “Erase the Line”, and “While I’m Alive” are all classic-sounding, guitar-driven garage rock with just the right amount of weathered effects. Though these tracks sound amateurish and slightly sophomoric, the lyrical content is not. All three of the tracks deal with relationships in New York City and how to survive socially in such a metropolis. Meanwhile, “Out of City” and “Don’t Want To” are fast-paced, Descendents-esque punk rock sprints that feature aggressive guitar loops, slightly cacophonous choruses, and punctuated drum sections. These two tracks were more along the lines of what many people thought Cende would be like, and maybe they will go in this direction in the future. But for now, they only give us two fleeting glimpses to their punk side.
The most bizarre and surprising submission by Cende were the tracks “Bed” and “Moment Too Late.” Still holding on to garage and indie constructs, the works are surprisingly dreamy and effect-filled. Furthermore, the guitars seem to blend together, making it very difficult to distinguish bass from lead. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that both tracks actually smell of shoegaze. This is a very ambitious attempt; the shoegaze genre has been rather bereft of new artists lately, and quite honestly these two tracks seemed more like experiments rather than indicators. Nonetheless, Cende deserves credit for attempting a genre in which would have expected them to dip their toes. If they do want to pursue shoegaze, the songwriting and vocal performance by Cameron Wisch is going to have to improve significantly. The vocals are too rough and punctuated for traditional shoegaze despite the noticeable scale back compared to their other songs. Furthermore, the drums are still too present, at times overshadowing the guitars and giving the piece too much punch.
“What I Want” is a near perfect summation of Cende’s work on this album. Featuring Greta Kline of Frankie Cosmos, the track is nearly 5 minutes, by far the longest song on the album. Both Cende and Kline put out beautiful harmonies and vocal interplays that give the song an almost heavenly sound. The beginning of the track sounds very indie pop with both singers taking turns on the first and second verses. From the bridge to the final chorus, the song wanders and actually features elements of noise rock and industrial rock, which is a perfect foil to the more linear sound in the beginning of the song. Both vocalists make a return at the end, this time singing in perfect tandem to guide the track to its conclusion via the same harmony and chorus from the beginning.
Room for structural improvement
At only 8 songs, the album doesn’t have much room for error regarding song layout. However, Cende really self-concussed themselves by placing the shoegazey “Bed” as the first song on the album. Along with a less-than-stellar instrumental open, the song lacks the energy and attitude that the album on the whole seems to promote. It’s too dreary and misplaced at the beginning of the album; the song would have been better placed later on, between the slightly contrasted “Erase the Line” and “While I’m Alive.” The perfect opener on the album would have been “What I Want”. The song’s tempo, aesthetic, and diverse journey lend itself more to an all-encompassing opener.
Meanwhile “Out of City”, the fourth track on the album, is placed horribly awkwardly after “What I Want” and before “Moment Too Late.” At 53 seconds, the song feels like both a bridge and an intermission between two heavy and different songs. However, the fourth song seems too early to have a track that brings minimal constructs to the table. The song would have operated better if it was closer to the end, or quite frankly if it wasn’t there at all, as it really adds the least of all of this album’s tracks.
The future is bright in Brooklyn
The blending of several genres beneath an indie rock cap yields an exciting future for Cende. The guitar work found on many of the album’s tracks makes one think that they are ready to produce Strokes-esque guitar ballads, while the harmonies specifically found on “What I Want” could find the band even crossing over into mainstream rock. Though the shoegaze element was a nice surprise, that isn’t necessarily a direction that the band should follow too religiously. Not that they wouldn’t find success in it, but they are already so prepared and polished in the indie vocation.
Unfortunately, this album is so short that the audience still needs to see more to truly ascribe definite feelings toward the band. On the bright side though, more music seems to be an imminent possibility considering the band’s recent aggressive track record of releases. Additionally, their touring with (Sandy) Alex G may allow them to get more experience and even borrow some of his folk influences.
“What I Want (featuring Greta Kline)”
“Don’t Want To”
“Erase the Line”
Also in the #1 Hit Single family:
Preoccupations: Viet Cong
Teen Suicide: Bad Vibes Forever
All images from Bandcamp
#1 Hit Single
Though not all of the songs are tremendous works of art, Cende really gets their marks from the experimentation and layering of genres utilized on this record. Listening to the album will make some think of only indie rock, but their jaunts into punk and shoegaze were very interesting realizations. Although Cende has set themselves up with some potential future pitfalls, such as lackluster album layout and experimentation with too many genres, overall this breakout band seems to have smooth sailing ahead, and their next release should be greatly anticipated.