Hailing from Leeds, England, indie four-piece City of Lights have wasted little time in recording and releasing their debut album, “Seasons Change”. Following the formation of the band in 2011, “Seasons Change” was only a year in the making, an impressive feat considering a heavy touring schedule which has already seen the Yorkshire songsters make the transition from the local to the national stage. Though City of Lights namecheck the likes of Coldplay, Biffy Clyro, Kings of Leon and Angels and Airwaves among their musical influences, their sound hinges on the acoustic rather the electric guitar while songwriting shows more similarity with the straightforward indie of Snow Patrol or even Frightened Rabbit.
The latter influence is most evident in the vocals; singer Matt Dunwell sometimes affects a faintly Scottish twang that is also the one tangible link to Biffy Clyro throughout “Seasons Change”. Perhaps surprisingly, it works fairly well but doesn’t do enough to distinguish Dunwell or really add anything to the band’s overall sound. The majority of the ten tracks on offer here follow a predictable pattern, with slow acoustic guitar and vocal led verses giving way to uplifting mid-tempo choruses.
There’s a small degree variation here and there – “Did I Stutter” makes sparing use of mildly distorted guitars to add a little dynamism early on – but for the most part, we find ourselves in the realms of sedate, stupefying and undistinguished indie. Not that the band don’t try; guitar and bass work are all impressive enough and the backing vocals help add life to some otherwise quite bland songs, even if Sean Howey’s drumming is way further down in the mix than it should be.
The biggest problem with “Seasons Change” is that for all its admirable qualities, it is utterly defeated by the conceits of the indie genre. There’s absolutely nothing here that you haven’t heard a hundred times before, only usually executed with a lot more panache. By the seventh track, “Sticks and Stones”, the album has thoroughly worn out its welcome as other flaws start to become readily apparent. The lyrics begin to unwind, revealing a diary full of contrived teenage clichés while increasingly predictable guitar and piano arrangements stultify any last hope for redemption.
At the reckoning, “Seasons Change” is indie by numbers, 36 minutes of earnest but ultimately trite acoustica. The album lacks the energy and spectacle of the alt rock influences to whom City of Lights aspire and doesn’t come close to delivering enough wit or insight to lift it from mediocrity. While the musicianship is generally solid and there are occasional flashes of promise, the record feels wholly derivative, with the band failing to really establish a recognisable signature sound. Doubtless some indie devotees will find a couple of tracks to their liking but for the rest of us, there’s not a great deal to stick around for.