By Frank Krolicki
There's something strangely satisfying about small bands making big noise. Whenever I come across a musical act with fewer than three members I automatically prepare myself to hear something light and acousticy, so having my ears tricked by a rocking two-piece like Pinto and the Bean is a welcome surprise. On their debut The Waiting Place, Paul Taneja and Ivan Sosa manage to bring a fullness and intensity to their electro-tinged indie rock for an album that packs a lot more punch than what you might expect from a duo.
Opening track "Let's Make Noise" holds true to its title and shows just how much noise these two guys can make together; it's an immediate indie rock anthem loaded with meaty guitar, a shout-along chorus and a dash of angst. Songs like "Rebuild Everything" and "Robot Wars" follow suit with more energy than many bands with three times the members would be able to drum up.
What's most impressive about The Waiting Place is that every song holds its own. The melodies are fleshed-out and memorable, and there's enough stylistic variation to prevent the tracks from running together. "Wake Up" and "Eleazar" are essentially folk songs with a pop sheen, emotionally-driven and bittersweet (the latter is especially affecting with its sadly beautiful melody, reflective lyrics and the ragged desperation of Ivan's lead vocal). Elsewhere, the bouncy "Stray Dog" offers up three minutes of perfect power pop, "Midnight Monsters" combines a mysterious vibe with a '60s-styled guitar strum, and "Night Rider" crunches along with hard rock riffs.
The fact that Ivan and Paul share lead vocal duties also helps the material stand out. Paul brings a confident, more conventional rock voice while Ivan provides a quirkier take with some unique phrasing. This injects extra shots of personality and originality into the songs, and all of it adds up to an album that sounds both accessible and a bit oddball at the same time--there's plenty of pop hooks to grab onto, but things never get run-of-the-mill.
The Waiting Place was named after a line in Dr. Suess’s, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!," and it's somewhere that the duo describe as "the worst place you can possibly end up in life. It's the place of no hopes, no dreams and no ambitions.” But for every bit of weariness on the album, there's just as much hopefulness. "The determined people find a way to break free...nothing great will ever be accomplished while in the waiting place," they say. Based on the ambitious sound of their debut, I doubt Pinto & the Bean will be spending much time there.
The album is available digitally now on Bandcamp, or you can get a hard copy via CDBaby. You can also check out Pinto & the Bean live at Streetside (3201 W. Armitage) on Saturday, November 19th.
Check out more record reviews:
Tiny Magnets - Time to Try
To Destroy A City - S/T
An Aesthetic Anaesthetic - Before the Machinery of Other Skeletons
Ornery Little Darlings - O is for Ornery