Code Machine | s/t (s/r)

“Disappear” takes the atmospheric, indie rock, emo, and dreamy elements of the rest of the album and gives it an almost country twist.

By this point, it’s no longer news that Nashville has achieved status as an “it” city. With that tag, this also means more and more up-and-coming acts being cultivated by Music City USA. Indie rockers Code Machine are the next new act to appear on the scene. While on one hand, it’s easy to dismiss current atmospheric melodic Nashville indie rock bands as Coldplay and (post-2008) Kings of Leon derivatives, Code Machine’s sonic textures lean more toward that of Thrice, Mae, and Radiohead.

The 10-song debut starts with the boldly confrontational “Picture Perfect,” with music reminiscent of the exploration of sounds on Ok Computer. This is especially so within the atmospheric subtleties and layers of the song. The ending of the first track explores otherworldly electronic textures, and it’s elements like these that keep the album engaging. While the vocals are strong, without a doubt the most powerful elements of this debut are the dreamy instrumentals. “Let Go” and “Lighten Up” are reminiscent of the dark post-rock vibes of Thrice and The Appleseed Cast, whereas tracks like “Red Handed,” “Mindlessly,” and “Moon” take after some of Radiohead’s best work from the late ’90s and early 2000s. “Flag of Doubt” and “Invincible” both sounds like they could be Mae in 2017, with the vocals on “Flag of Doubt” sounding inspired by Death Cab for Cutie.

“Disappear” is a major highlight of the album. It totally has a Nashville-esque Southern rock, rock ’n’ roll moment, but it’s able to do that without sounding generic, bro-country, or cheesy. Rather, it takes the atmospheric, indie rock, emo, and dreamy elements of the rest of the album and gives it an almost country twist.

What’s interesting overall here is that nothing sounds particularly derivative, but also nothing feels particularly self-identified, either. For instance, while “Mindlessly” and “Moon” both take influence from Radiohead, “Mindlessly” also has a distinct influence from Thrice and “Moon” also has an influence from Death Cab for Cutie. It’s notable, as a lot of this solid self-titled debut sounds like a literal mash-up of a lot of their influences. However, despite the quirky combinations, nothing, except for maybe “Disappear,” feels immediately like “Code Machine.”

Think of it like this: When one hears Radiohead or Thrice, it’s automatically recognized as Radiohead or Thrice. Code Machine’s debut doesn’t quite have that level of identification. There’s nothing gravely wrong with this, however, and this really is a means for this new Nashville act to keep growing and experimenting. Most of the best bands are those you can grow with and watch their evolution, such as with Brand New and their evolution from their pop-punk Your Favorite Weapon to post-hardcore/alt-rock Daisy, or Radiohead from their days of ’90s alt Pablo Honey to their dreamy and abstract A Moon Shaped Pool. Whether it’d be in exploring their vocal composition and layering further, taking their otherworldly instrumentals to the next level, or exploring more mashups of southern rock and post/indie-rock, Code Machine is off to a good start. C+ | Michael Cheng

Key tracks: “Picture Perfect,” “Red Handed,” “Disappear,” “Mindlessly”

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