From looking at each band’s discography separately, it would be naive to think the Old Gray/Tiny Moving Parts split would be anything but devastating. In the past year, both bands have made great strides in popularity. Although that brings along tons of anticipation for new material, it also has critics examining such material under a microscope, determining if new releases are a step in the right or wrong direction. Even with that pressure, this split further secures Old Gray’s and Tiny Moving Parts’ spots in the genre. The bands combined their talent and promise into one release that is one of the best splits we’ve heard all year. With an underlying theme of anxiety and death running through these four tracks, the bands address similar situations from different perspectives, both sonically and emotionally. Even so, the subtleties in each track compliment each other impressively well. Let’s look at the split track-by-track.
Old Gray kicks off the split with “Clip Your Own Wings.” The song begins with a lone guitar and Cameron Boucher’s screaming vocals. Due to the echoing of the vocals and the guitar delay, it sounds almost like Cameron is alone in a large, empty room and he is yelling for anyone to listen, repeating “I don’t feel safe in my skin” twice before the full band comes in. The instrumentals are lush and a little hazy, very much fitting for the context of the song. What is really cool is that the instrumentals are a little bit louder than normal and overpower the vocals. Okay, so normally, that wouldn’t be cool and that would be an issue with the production quality BUT here, it’s awesome because the sound is mirroring the disappearing identity and feeling of being lost incited through the vocals (“I guess I can’t be myself”). The instrumentals build into the song’s peak moment before they are hushed to the lone guitar and vocal’s from the song’s beginning. But, instead of the chaos and hopelessness present throughout the song, the track ends with some hope and confidence- “You have no idea how high I can fly.” I’ve read several reviews that thought this track just didn’t have enough in it or that it had potential but it lacked dramatic moments but I think it’s incredible. You just have to look at all Old Gray offers in the track.
Moving onto Old Gray’s second song “An Epitaph,” instrumentals are far more upbeat and even slightly reminiscent of Tiny Moving Parts. Lyrically, it’s heartbreaking as this song is written to a friend that passed away too young and years later, Boucher still struggling to make sense of it. It’s extremely well done. Towards the middle of the song, the instrumentals quiet down as for a recording of two kids speaking. It lightens up the track a bit and is almost a relief. While both tracks absolutely kill it, they are in no way an easy listen and this breaks up the heaviness of first track and a half. After the song kicks back in and comes to a close, Old Gray leaves a haunting mark on the EP. The instrumentals fade out, leaving Boucher screaming “And I am so alone” over silence. Without giving any closure, the song is both honest and emotional, leaving the listener to just sit there and think about feelings once it ends.
If you aren’t an emotional wreck yet, then you’ll notice that Tiny Moving Parts’ contribution to this split is just as impressive. Their first song for the split “Swimming Lessons” demonstrates the band’s growth within the past year. Having a much more complete and fuller sound compared to their first LP This Couch is Long and Full of Friendships, it shows a genuine improvement on their already awesome sound. The duel vocals of Dylan Mattheisen and Matthew Chevalier have always been one of my favorite aspects of this band and I think this song really exemplifies it. Mattheisen delivers clean vocals that hit you just as hard as the screaming heard in Old Gray’s half of the split. Yet, even he gets louder than fans are accustomed to as he grapples with the line “My anxiety will always destroy me.”
Chevalier’s rougher vocals heard in “Fair Trade” make the opening verse as impacting as it is, acting as a contrast against Mattheisen and, therefore, emphasizing both of their lines. Also notable here is Mattheisen sings the chorus as opposed to shouting/speaking thing going on throughout most of the split. While it might not be full-out, going-up-and-down-the-scale singing, it definitely a change of pace and a nice touch. The lyrics address death in a different way that seen prior in this release, speaking more of a fulfilled life and being content with accomplishments thus far (“If I die in my sleep tonight/ Well at least my bed is already made”). Closing out this split on a great pair of lines, “I love myself more than I ever have/ And I have learned to love you too,” Tiny Moving Parts ends the album in a heartfelt and powerful way.
Overall, the Old Gray / Tiny Moving Parts Split 7″ EP rocks and is one of my favorite releases of the year. It’s really exciting to see two up-and-coming bands with so much potential take advantage of their talent and make music that kicks ass.