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Culture Shock

Saintseneca- Dark Arc


The first time I saw Saintseneca, I was a freshman at Indiana University. They were playing towards the end of a festival held in the front lawn of the dorm I lived in at the time; my first thought that evening was, Wow, they came a long way just to play here…

My second thought was, That is the best not-drum I’ve ever seen. (I believe it was an upside-down plastic trash can; it really added to the stomp-effect.)

My last thought was, This band is amazing.

At the time, I didn’t realize how common it was for bands to travel seemingly obscene distances just to play one show, many times at a relatively small venue such as the tiny festival being held in front of my dorm building. Saintseneca had come from their nesting place of Columbus, OH, to play at our tiny outdoors music festival.

Many groups have traveled to grace the stages, basements, and lawns of Bloomington, IN (either on their way elsewhere or coming here specifically). However, Saintseneca has become one of the most exciting for me… and fortunately, Saintseneca doesn’t seem opposed to visiting us on a rather frequent basis.

Their new album, Dark Arc, is being produced under the ANTI- label, which has also signed on artists such as Dr. Dog, Wilco, Neko Case, Elliott Smith, and Devotchka. The band is composed of Zac Little, Maryn Jones, Steve Ciolek, and Jon Maedor. Saintseneca’s sound is created by a culmination of many different acoustic instruments, along with more modern components of synthesizers and electric guitars. All of the band members have a variety of musical abilities; you’ll often see Little and Jones switching up instruments multiple times in any given show. Little, who comes from small-town Appalachia, leads the band with a strong stomp, a big voice, and an even bigger mustache.

The group’s sound is one with strong folk roots and a sound that is loud yet soothing. Dark Arc has variety, and yet it has Saintseneca’s unmistakably unique sound. Little’s voice is very similar to that of Isaac Brock, lead singer of Modest Mouse, while Jones’ in “Fed Up With Hunger” sounds remarkably like that of Meg White of The White Stripes in “In The Cold, Cold Night.” The instrumentals bring the listener back to small town America, and harkens the listener back to a simpler age.

The content of Saintseneca’s work is wrought with emotion, and it’s sometimes shocking. Lyrics like, “If only the good ones die young/I’d pray your corruption would/Swift like a thief in the night,“ from “Only The Young Die Good” grab your attention, and much of the topics seem to have a not-preachy religious undertone. The words can carry and envelop your mind, saturated with feeling and unafraid to be vulnerable in songs like “Falling Off” and “So Longer,” the latter of which is short but sweet and makes use of homonyms “reek” and “wreak” in reference to the scent of a home and the havoc of a dream. This short but sweet song resonates of simple longing.

Songs like “Happy Alone,” “Uppercutter,” and “Visions" tend to be more upbeat, promising to be their most popular; popular opinion tends to favor the more positive and dance-able. However, if you give “Dark Arc” a running chance (the one they used for the album title, so it must be good, right?), you’ll find that it gets strong and exciting, reeling you in and lifting you up.

After listening to this album, I felt a sense of wholeness. Although I'd heard many of the songs already at various shows of theirs, I am pleased to conclude that this group is still amazing (if not more so!).

The band will be playing at the Bishop on Mon., April 13th, beginning at 8 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.). Hope to see you there!


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