According to an informal poll of people I know, it would seem that most people enjoy the music of The Spill Canvas once they’ve heard it, but many people have yet to be introduced to this South Dakotan band and its distinctive brand of highly accessible alternative rock.
The album kicks off with “Dust Storm,” in which lead vocalist and guitarist Nick Thomas waxes philosophical, musing, “Will I die before I get old? Will I be known or unknown? Can you tell my why all the birds have flown?” The track doesn’t get too heavy though, as bouncy acoustic guitar and light electric guitar riffing punctuate the rest of the song, and a groovy little solo brings “Dust Storm” to its conclusion.
“Our Song” is a heartfelt dedication that will most likely appear on your favorite lovesick friend’s Facebook status sometime soon, with lines such as “When you look at me with your cinematic eyes, I wanna play the part but I forget the lines” and “Sorry If I wasn’t straight out of a movie.” Instrumentally, this is another upbeat track, with steady rhythm guitar and a neat little riff that tends to get lost sometimes.
The next track, “As Long As It Takes” is a mid-tempo song with some nice guitar picking and a soaring chorus, during which Thomas promises, “I’ll be here as long as it takes.” This is a catchy track that could easily do well on mainstream radio for quite a while, though personally I’d have preferred a stronger solo.
“10,000 Midnights” kicks off with a bouncy acoustic riff that has a bit of a Bossa Nova feel to it. The different instrumental feel isn’t the only highlight on this track, as Thomas produces quite a few memorable lines, such as “My my, time is so unkind” and “Old New York, tell me the truth, you know her better than I do, I’m just another hand-me-down.” The Spill Canvas adds variety by dropping in a horn solo section as the track fades away, rounding out an original and interesting track.
“Good Graces, Bad Influences” rocks a bit harder, with a cutting guitar riff and some striking horn blasts throughout. This up-tempo rocker is one of the best tracks on the album, as it’s a well-written song with a great melody and solid, simple but catchy riffing.
The Spill Canvas keeps its collective foot on the gas pedal with “The Bone,” another rocking track with great riffing and plenty of energy. The track bounces between energetic, louder sections and a few more subdued sections, which makes this song somewhat reminiscent of an Envy on the Coast song.
The acoustic version of “Dust Storm” follows, and the track shines in its own right, with tighter, more prominent percussion throughout and some additional riffing that doesn’t come through in the electric version.
“Crash Course” explodes with a bright electric riff that settles down into a calmer verse before bursting back into a big chorus. The Spill Canvas drops in a tasteful but brief solo before a quieter chorus that builds momentum for a big finish.
Another acoustic re-imagining, this time of “Our Song” is the next track, and it’s surprisingly similar to the electric version. However, this one features a vocal harmony on the chorus lyrics, which is undoubtedly a nice touch. The song also has a bit more of a laid-back feel, but other than that it’s not too different; after all, it is basically the same song.
“Don’t Let Your Enemies Become Friends” has a bit of a darker feel, with a prominent bass line, although the song features a big chorus that changes the mood significantly. Considering that many of Thomas’ earlier lyrics are about being in love, it’s nice to see that he can sing heartbroken songs without sounding fake. “For the record, I wish we never met and opened up this mess,” he sings, concluding, “I should have known I’m better off on the floor alone.”
Formalities closes with the acoustic version of “As Long As It Takes,” which features bongo drums and a violin melody, which add a more intimate feel to the track.