In a world where surviving in the music industry is a feat unto itself, the forbidden forest where instrumental bands tread is an even more challenging endeavor. It is a somewhat niche genre that is harshly criticized and often overlooked; where technical expertise and compositional innovation is a must; and where very few manage to survive, let alone thrive. The American Dollar is a band that can contend with instrumental powerhouses like Explosions in the Sky and The Redneck Manifesto, especially with their fifth studio album Awake in the City.
While 12 tracks can be daunting for both listener and artist, The American Dollar makes sure to break any monotony and open with full force. The opening track “Faces in the Haze” begins with swirls of piano until cymbals quietly build and envelope the listener in a cosmic tornado of sound. Fluid electric guitar compliments the harmonizing simplicity and crispness of the song and gently ushers the listener into a rare musical experience.
“Faces in the Haze,” which amounts to nearly five minutes, is followed by yet another lengthy track “Heavy Eyes Ignite.” But after powering through the two beginning songs, the following tracks are easy to fly through. With almost indiscernible song transitions, Awake in the City is a cohesive body of work rather than a ragtag collection of songs, making its musical impact that much more profound and satisfying.
“Steeltown (Part One),” at just over two minutes long, bears a lasting impact. The electronic influences combined with angelic vocals almost too faint to detect results in an airy, thought-provoking piece. It appropriately ends with a myriad of electric twinkles and spare percussion while seamlessly easing its way into sister piece “Steeltown (Part Two).” Both emotionally charged tracks alone, together the two pieces coalesce to form a dramatic instrumental partnership.
Awake in the City houses 12 tracks amounting to a total of 40 minutes in material, Awake in the City isn’t a long piece; but what it lacks in length it more than compensates for with emotional power. The tracks at times transition almost too seamlessly and become muddled together in their profound similarities. But with this criticism comes the concession that a band composed of just a drummer and guitarist manage to create what few bands achieve with the help of lyrics—music that you don’t just listen to, but experience.
Closing track “Oracle” perfectly embodies the creative prowess that The American Dollar possesses. Starting with a foundation of keys and simplistic percussion, The American Dollar then builds musical masterpieces that one can only gaze in absolute astonishment, without words of description or reaction. It literally takes your breath away.
Awake in the City is one of those albums that you just know can be the score to your life. Upon listening to any song, an experience, emotion, memory comes to mind. The song seems to fit like a long lost puzzle piece that you’ve been searching for. And finally, the puzzle is finished, the finished product is revealed, and you can sleep soundly knowing you’re at musical ease with this chaotic world. Awake in the City brings peace.
The American Dollar – Awake in the City tracklist:
- “Faces in the Haze”
- “Heavy Eyes Ignite”
- “Ether Channels”
- “First Day”
- “Steeltown (Part One)”
- “Steeltown (Part Two)”
- “Crossing Asia”
- “As We Float”
- “Friends of Friends”