Floorboards is technically a reissue of an album that was released last year. In the updated version, however, it is paired with 2008’s The Earthling Sessions, a three-song EP comprised of the band’s early material. Merging the two releases was a logical decision on label Topshelf Records‘ part, as the record retains the feel of a cohesive full-length. The Earthling Sessions is not simply a tacked-on demo, but an essential piece of the Caravels discography that complements its full-length counterpart both stylistically and thematically. Here, the two become a potent combination.
The original Floorboards indicates ambitious post-hardcore leanings, primarily in terms of song structure. “Meat Wave” climaxes unpredictably with a searing, melodic Thursday-esque harmony atop singer Michael Roeslein’s relentless delivery. “Buddy System,” initially roaring and confrontational, peels back a few layers to reveal distinct, impassioned vocals behind a cleaner guitar tone. The structure is, to an extent, symmetrical, as the song gradually rebuilds the intensity and the wall of guitars from which it began.
Lyrically, Roeslein creates bleak environments that adequately emphasize the overall dreary atmosphere. On Floorboards, there is prominent imagery of desolation and destruction. “Buddy System” hints at a fond memory before re-implementing the dread with, “Now all that’s left is some hollow shell, some dried up leaves.” Carried by a galloping rhythm, “Safety Jobs” tells of aging and searching for one’s place in a chaotic world, and ends with an appropriately anthemic declaration.
Caravels are a young band, but they’ve clearly mastered the ability to craft interesting song structures. “Iceland” builds a dreamy, isolated landscape before its counterpart “Greenland” tears it all down in one surging sweep of abrasive hardcore.
The primary distinction between Floorboards and The Earthling Sessions is insignificant enough to avoid disrupting the uniformity of the record, but it is also apparent in that it still manages to display a subtle degree of growth. Reminiscent of Modern Life is War, these three tracks exemplify more prominent use of restraint, and vocal comparisons might also be drawn to Jeff Eaton.
Floorboards is a suitable introduction to Las Vegas’ Caravels, and should please fans of dynamic, progressive post-hardcore.