Gaining their start as a hookah-bar jam band in their hometown of Pittsburgh, the now seasoned indie-rock quartet, Instead of Sleeping, recently released their fourth studio effort, Young Lungs, produced by Marc McClusky (Bad Religion, Weezer). Compared to past records, Instead of Sleeping have steadily developed their independent rock, sometimes electronic, sometimes jazzy sound with Young Lungs, yet the album seems to lack that oomph and maturity to truly set them apart as a band.
Young Lungs opens with “Volatile,” featuring pulsing, echoing keys that lead into a chanting chorus carried by driving guitars, while “Insatiable” holds its place as the most artistic on the album, with dark rhythms and a decently catchy chorus, however vocalist Shaun Sweeney’s vocals have a tendency to sound too proper, like he’s performing for a musical, and it doesn’t quite match the emotional feel of the music. “Merlot” is another where the vocals lack passion, sounding particularly unnatural and forced with the numerous “ay-oh-ay-oooohs, while “Speak into Me” builds up with dreamy keys and introduces a smooth, jazz vibe, showcasing the bass most prominently, yet again, for a song with blatant sexual themes, the lack of enthusiasm in the flat, almost blase vocals makes it an awkward listen.
On the other hand,“Tired Tigers” in literal terms sounds as though Sweeney is singing about tigers in captivity, with lyrics “Muscles tense with the thought of using his claws, born to hunt since the day he could walk on his paws,” and with the random xylophone dings in the background, it almost sounds like something that would be on a children’s program about a cartoon tiger prancing around its habitat at the zoo.
Closing track “Ammo” is a somber acoustic diddy reflecting on a harsh breakup, featuring the most emotion of all the tracks, yet it ends abruptly, abandoning the listener in what feels like should be mid-song.
While there are a few solid, stand-out tracks on Young Lungs, (“Volatile” and “Insatiable” most notably), it seems that underdeveloped lyrics, spotty vocal moments and a lack of overall maturity in their sound prove the band has room yet to grow with their next album.