EP Review: Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose – Lambs Become Lions

Maybe this band becomes our lives. Maybe we play every city we can get to. Maybe we make tons of hopefully great music videos. Maybe we move on to new adventures. Maybe we don’t. For now, it’s all about this music.

Words every band should live by, be driven by.   This is how I found myself shaking proverbial hands with St. Catherines-based band Lambs Become Lions and their sophomore release, Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.  What keeps me returning is the soaring promise of the silver-lined hooks and the confessional truths of their carefully crafted lyrics.  Then again, it shouldn’t be surprising, given the band’s pedigree:  featuring talent drawn from the likes of Alexisonfire and Journey to Aspen, Lambs Become Lions have seen the music industry’s disheartening side and have cast off its shackles to return to the art and its joy.

Opener “When I Open My Eyes” is folk-pop artistry evoking Edwin McCain, a love song of earnest truth and devotion.  Incredibly catchy and polished, yet not overly saccharine, it’s a positive note to kick the EP off on. “Postcards” is a joyous tale of escape from the daily grind into the unknown of the open road and its seemingly endless string of gigs in an effort to break through in an unforgiving business.  Its playful invitation for the 9-to-5 world to pucker up and meet a posterior is an example of how the band both takes its work seriously, yet never loses its sonic smile.

The EP isn’t all a cheery pop bubble, though.  “Ghosts” has more of an alt-rock kick and immediately appeals to me with its soul-searching contemplation of life and our disconnection from the world outside our invisible fences.  Lines like  “If I could sate the human race on nothing but my words/I’d build an ark of adjectives to float on all your wishful verbs” cut to the heart and linger after the final note fades.

There’s a sense of doing and being more, of rising above our own lives and finding some elusive dream or, more simply, being remembered beyond our final breath.  Fittingly, the melodies rise, lifting the plaintive vocals ever higher with them.  I’m reminded of the swell of classic Arcade Fire tune “Wake Up” — high praise, indeed, and evocative songcraft.  Lyrics frequently speak of dreams, of stars and heights reached or metaphorical mountains to climb.

I do have one criticism, despite my overall enthusiasm for this solid EP:  track “Simpler Things” contains lyrics almost identical to Something Corporate’s classic track “Konstantine”.  Compare Lambs Become Lions (“I had these dreams that I might learn to play guitar/Maybe cross the country, singing songs from my heart.”) and SoCO (“I had this dream I’d learn to play guitar/Maybe cross the country, become a rock star.”)  Intentional?  I have no idea, but it rips me out of what is otherwise a stellar track.  Sometimes, references are too noticeable to be a nostalgia-tug and this is one such case.

Living up to its name, Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose is a love letter to everyone who’s dreamed of making it in music, a sort of call to arms to take charge of one’s destiny and set out to soar.  It’s an optimism tempered by lessons learned, lessons that shape each track into something poignant and memorable, worth repeated listens.  There are no Lambs here, only Lions.

Hear them roar.

Highlights:  “Ghosts”; “Someone Else’s Dream”; “(They Won’t) Let Me Sleep”
Final Grade:  A

Check out the EP stream below, or head to the band’s Facebook page and learn more.

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/v=2/album=2613850761/size=grande3/bgcol=FFFFFF/linkcol=4285BB/

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