On The Ex-Optimists fifth full-length album, they are not wasting any time on being taken seriously. Their latest LP demands to be cranked up and absorbed, with no outside distractions. Drowned in Moonlight is one of those rare records that you don’t expect to blow you away, yet their passion for music comes shouting through the speakers.
For those new to The Ex-Optimists’ world, they are led by vocalist/guitarist Kelly Minnis, who truly shines on this noise-rock record. Others in the band are bassist Katie Keller, guitarist Michael Scarborough, and drummer Colin Witucki. They have self-described themselves as “Noise rock” and are heavily influenced by college radio from the early 90’s. I personally was reminded of other bands such as Dinosaur Jr., and the heavier moments of The Goo Goo Dolls and Gin Blossoms, based on this band’s pop sensibilities.
The record itself starts with “Nights and Days of Rain,” which is a very prog-rock type tune to introduce a new album with. Scarborough and Minnis’s dual-guitar methods on this song create a wall of noise that gradually leads to the vocals near the 3-minute mark of the song. The song is a bit repetitive, but what follows this song are the real gems on the LP.
The following track, “My New Normal,” rocks like Ash, but with more muscle behind it. Witucki has several interesting beats throughout this song, and he plays well off of the styles of the other musicians in the band. While “The Joe Jackson Self-Destruct” sounds more like the aforementioned Goo Goo Dolls influence, The Ex-Optimists still bring enough of their unique brand of college rock to make it their own.
“Make it Through the Night” is a pretty straight-forward 90’s alternative rock song, but the fascinating vocal delivery of Minnis makes this track sound like a near-Interpol single. The other songs rounding out this set are in the same realm of garage/90’s rock, but these accomplished musicians are on the border of discovering something great. Whether or not The Ex-Optimists reach their full potential remains to be seen, but I will surely be watching their career with much higher interest.