The Beginning Stages of... is the first full length CD released by The Polyphonic Spree. It was first released on February 5, 2002, by Good Records, and later by Hollywood Records (Thanks kthejoker). Labeled as a "pop-choral" group, The Polyphonic Spree are truly unique possessing a sound all their own. At this point though, the band is fairly obscure, but is quickly gaining a positive reputation in the mainstream public's eye. They are currently openers for David Bowie's 2004 tour, will appear on the television program SCRUBS, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. While the group is finding some success in the mainstream crowd, The Beginning Stages of... has been given mixed reviews, ranging from outstanding to mediocre.
The overall theme of the album seems to be the sky, or sun. In fact, many of the titles of the songs have something to do with said themes. These images, and their implementation give the album a very positive feeling. As for the lyrics, and the incorporation of the "themes" into the songs, for many of the songs, there are few actual words. Rather, there are only a few words that are repeated throughout the song, using different vocalists, or supported by different instruments. For good or bad, this effect makes it seem as though there is more the songs than the lyrics would suggest.
If you really need a comparison to paint a picture of what the band is like, then imagine a church choir supported by a full orchestra, without strong religious themes (although certain religious connotations could be made). Overall, a very inoffensive, happy listen.
Have A Day / Celebratory (4:38)
The album starts out with a somber piano-string-flute intro, that brings to mind images of a sunrise. After about a minute and a half, the comforting vocals of the band is introduced, repeating only a couple lines over and over, each time adding an additional part of the band in a very progressive manner. This song sets the tone of the album, letting the listener know what can be expected - strong, melodic vocals supported by classical-esque instruments. This is the perfect wake-up song, and is almost sure to start your day off right.
It's The Sun (5:33)
After a short, muffled trumpet solo, booming, melodic voices bombard the listener. This is without a doubt the most "preachy" song on the CD, speaking out against suicide, and speaking of how everyone needs to find their own way in life, which isn't a bad thing at all. The pulsing vocal crescendos and triumphant trumpet pieces combine together to make a very moving and uplifting song. A version of this song (that can be found on the US exclusive bonus disk of the album) can be found on the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Soundtrack.
Days Like This Keep Me Warm (4:05)
Possibly the quietest, and prettiest track on the CD. Opens with a violin supported by a piano and a flute playing a soft, lullaby tune. The lead eventually joins the flute and violin. Every second of this song has a calming aura about it, and lulls listeners to a sleep-like trance. One of my favorites.
La La (2:10)
A strong blast of brass instruments, and rough drum beats bring to mind a marching band in this song. Many of the vocalists can be heard throughout the album with supporting "la la las," while the lead belts out lyrics that seem akin to some of the more minimalist indie groups out there. This song really gives an idea of the capabilities of the band, and the variety of sounds they can produce.
Middle of the Day (2:46)
Almost seamlessly connected to the previous track, Middle of the Day seems to represent just that - the lazy, easy going, summer afternoon of the CD. An acoustic guitar, maracas, and distant, almost ethereal vocals give this track a very western, deserty feel. More than anything else, when looked at with the opening track, this song makes the listener imagine the CD as one might imagine a day, starting with a sleepy-eyed sunrise, on to a somewhat slow mid-day, and on to an eventful, bright evening.
Hanging Around the Day Part 1 (2:38)
Strictly instrumental, this track seems to be like a post nap wake-up call. It starts out slow, with very few instruments, but slowly picks up more and more, to eventually throw the listeners back into the swing of the CD. Near the end of the song, it seems as though the CD gets a second wind, a new burst of energy, as though revitalized and prepared for the rest of the album.
Hanging Around the Day Part 2 (2:39)
A continuation of the last track, the instrumental parts are in full swing at the outright. Before long, the vocals kick in, and things really start to pick up. As one of the few tracks with an abundance of lyrics, this song offers some of the most inspirational vibes. The sheer energy that the band exudes when they sing the chorus is enough to fill one's heart with warm fuzzies. It's hard to keep from smiling when listening to this song.
Soldier Girl (3:59)
Opening with sharp, succinct notes from a Japanese flute, followed by a strong string section, this is one of the more powerful tracks on the CD. As the title might lead you to believe, this song has a somewhat militaristic feel to it. Again, strong vocals are highlighted throughout the song, with support from the rest of the choir, that sounds almost ghostly. Easily, one of my favorite songs on the album.
Light & Day / Reach for the Sun (3:23)
If you've heard any song by The Polyphonic Spree, then this is it. It was used in a commercial for Volkswagen, when they had that promotional deal that offered a free iPod with the purchase of a new Bug. Despite my disgust for the merchandise that the commercial peddled, I loved this song the first time I heard it. It opens with a pretty quick beat, and a synth melody that outlines the rest of the song. About a minute into the song, the lyrics break loose into a flurry of energy, as the choir uniformly erupt over a backdrop of drums, trumpets, and flutes. The level of energy is maintained throughout the rest of the song, finally ending on a neat, clear note. I can't get enough of this song, and I've never experienced 3 minutes and 23 second pass more quickly than when I am listening to this. Light & Day easily makes the list of all-time great, positive songs, among the ranks of greats like Mr. Blue Sky. This song can also be found on the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Soundtrack.
A Long Day (36:30)
That's right, a 36 minute track. Most of it sounds like a hollow, nasally, kazoo sound, played at different pitches, incorporating into it a few different beats. While it may sound boring at first, some of the beats are infectious, and may even cause some to hum along with them, like one would sing along to lyrics. Personally, I found that this song is best as background noise for writing, or working on homework. It could also be looked at as a desperate attempt to fill up the empty half of the CD, to avoid making buyers feel cheated for only 30 or so minutes of "real" music.
The Beginning Stages of... is a good first attempt at an unheard of genre. Personally, I loved it, and find something new to enjoy in it with each new listen. Plus, because of their recent popularity boom, it's possible to pick up the CD for super cheap (we're talking $7.00!).