Over the past few years, I’ve seen Athens’ The
Possibilities more than a few times in concert. Gradually they’ve
come to be one of my favorite local live bands. Why? I guess
that, for me, this band’s combination of lush, layered vocals
(every member of the band sings), catchy pop tunes, and memorable
lyrics make them into the ultimate indie pop band. One that
makes me want to dance and sing and just lose myself in their
Anyway, last fall, a friend gave me a rough mix of The Possibilities’
new album. I was rather impressed by the collection of songs.
In fact, it’s pretty much lived in my CD player since that time.
Now, some 8 months later, Parasol Records has finally released
Way Out. Although it has substantially changed
from the copy I had, this final version of the album is a better
and more accomplished album.
Overall, Way Out reflects the variations in the
sound of The Possibilities. Unlike many bands which choose one
style and then stick to it, the songs on this album vary from
one to another. For instance, one song may have a very 60s-esque
Beach Boys type of sound while another might recall the indie
punk of Superchunk (circa On the Mouth). Luckily,
each is good and well constructed in its own right, which is
a testament to the skill of the band as a whole.
But rather than just tell you how much I like this album, let
me talk about some of the songs.
The album begins with the song Invisible, which was
also the title track of a recent 7 inch release. More than any
other song on the album, Invisible seems the most like
classic The Possibilities to me. Both the instrumentation and
vocals on this song are almost orchestral in their execution,
with multiple layers of voice that are reminiscent of Pet
Sounds-era Beach Boys. More importantly, in typical
fashion, the song structure itself plays with the listener’s
expectations of a pop-oriented song. Instead of the usual verse/chorus/verse
structure with each note, bridge, and lyric being somewhat predictable,
on first listen, you can’t really figure out what’s going on
with Invisible. Is the chorus the part where the entire
band harmonizes “You’re invisible” or is it instead the part
that begins “You needed to be seen/You had to stand out”? It
doesn’t really matter in the end, but the refreshing nature
of the structure is part of The Possibilities charm.
In contrast, the album’s title track, Way Out, is more
of a traditional rock song. Beginning with the dueling guitars
of Kevin Lane and Chris Grehan, this song then adds in the keyboards
of Jason Gonzales before breaking into a straight-out tap-your-feet
garage number. It’s the type of song that makes you want to
dance (and perhaps even sing along with), and it’s incredibly
infectious and energetic, which places it in direct opposition
to the slightly languid Invisible.
Perhaps my favorite song on the this album comes towards the
middle of the album: Braintree. Both the lyrics and melody
(including the central bass riff of Bob Spires and the existentially
sparse drumming of Matt Lane) have a wistful nostalgia about
them that gives the song an almost melancholy overtone, despite
the happy beat. Furthermore, this is yet another song that play
with the listener’s expectations, as it starts off as a straight
vocal narrative (“In Braintree, they all die/ The boys laugh/The
girls cry”) before building at the end to a repeated harmonized
lament of “Ain't found nothing.” It’s a powerful ending that
leaves me wanting more of the song -- another chorus, another
Each song on Way Out could be described in such
minute detail, with further examination. For instance, Downtown
Dream begins with a blistering guitar part that leads into
a harder rocking song that wouldn’t be out of place on an early
Superchunk album . Likewise, Wouldn’t Take Nothing (co-written
with Jack Logan) recalls the early 60s work of Roy Orbison or
Del Shannon, adorned with slightly off-kilter vocals by guitarist
Kevin Lane. Speaking of which, the final song on Way Out
is in fact a cover of a Del Shannon classic. And with layers
upon layer of reverb and echo, What Makes You Run? is
quite frankly about the best thing The Rock*a*Teens never recorded.
In any event, I can easily state that Way Out
is the best album I’ve heard yet this year. It’s one of the
few pieces of music that I’ve played to almost all of my friends
(with their widely varied musical tastes), and they’ve all been
impressed with both the range and depth of The Possibilities.
In other words, if you like straight-up 60s-esque indie rock,
you should give this one a chance. And even if you don't normallty
like that type of music, the album still might be worth a listen.