I like albums that sneak up on a listener. Sirens, the fourth record by Christopher Bell is like that. Bell uses his looped vocals to create textures along with his cello. The result is a record that sounds like some sort of mix between Björk’s Medulla, Todd Rundgren’s A Capella, the work of Zoë Keating and some of Sean Altman’s stuff — Bell’s pop hooks is the world of Rundgren and Altman, where the artiness and interesting arrangements are similar to Björk and Keating. But the mix is all Bell’s own. Sirens isn’t going to take the place of any of these records, nor could any of these records replace Sirens. They’re all good but different, even if there is some DNA shared. So, unless you think kids are just lame rip-offs of their parents, it is an unfair slight to call Sirens derivative by any means.
The album starts with “Thy Will Be Done”, which starts almost as if a hymn, but soon plucked cello comes in, giving the song an almost folk or country feel. “You Are An Atom”, though, is more in a AAA Radio vein, though a little too sparse and interesting to be a perfect fit. (And that’s a compliment.)
“Shipwreck” is probably the most “normal” track on the album, with piano taking over for the layered vocals — and it’s quite pretty as well. “The Dogs” continues similarly, but adds back in electronic percussion and voice loops.
As a whole, Sirens could use some songs with different tempos — most of the songs are in the same neighborhood in that aspect. It’s a mellow tempo, though, so it’s kind of a nice, chill-out record. Still, a bit of variance in tempo might make Sirens a little bit stickier — but luckily, it’s got enough stickiness with the innovative arrangements and strong songwriting. Sirens is a very nice album that you may have missed — but it’s easy enough to rectify!