The title of From Indian Lakes’ third full-length might inadvertently refer to the album’s lack of volume. Absent Sounds, the band’s follow-up to 2012’s Able Bodies, is a low-key indie rock record whose most abundant elements include shimmering guitars and delicate falsettos, and the result is something like Circa Survive playing Seahaven. It’s more atmospheric than guitar-driven—sometimes to a fault—but it succeeds in conjuring a calming lull.
Despite its quieter tendencies, Absent Sounds isn’t dull or forgettable. This is mid-tempo indie rock centered on the mild-mannered presence of frontman Joey Vannucchi, whose muted melodies form the heart of the record. On “Breathe, Desperately,” a layered instrumental peels back until it’s just some light strumming and a serene Vannucchi singing, “I was once a quiet boy cleaning out my wounds, but I never could keep my mouth shut.” There’s plenty of angst, but From Indian Lakes prefers to be more measured than urgent.
Absent Sounds has a structural routine. “Come in This Light” plods along with a relaxed, piano-led rhythm, and it serves as a prequel to the airy, pretty textures that follow. The bass lines on “Sleeping Limbs” might sound gritty if stripped from the song’s glimmering melodies, but instead they’re as controlled as Vannucchi’s vocals. And “Ghost” veers into louder territory with its impassioned chorus, but it eases off the tension with subdued transitions.
“Fog,” on the other hand, is a rewarding closer that employs all of the record’s previously used dynamics — the fleeting, twinkling guitars, the falling volume, and the emphasis on softly sung vocals — but then it dives into mathy, Manchester Orchestra-evoking guitar leads, and the song proves From Indian Lakes to be capable of sweeping rock instrumentals. But up until that point, Absent Sounds skirts around the band’s energetic side. That’s unfortunate, being that the final, climactic minute of “Fog” is so immensely satisfying; but the rest of the record isn’t underwhelming, either.
From Indian Lakes—who self-produced Absent Sounds—adds light acoustic instrumentation, faint keys, and reverberating guitars to the mix, to good effect. “Awful Things” shows the band at its most inventive; an exposed Vannucchi pleads for a loved one to stay, as a delicate acoustic moment segues into a tasteful guitar solo before reverting back to a singer-songwriter convention.
Absent Sounds is equally elegant and restrained, but it’s just as, if not more listenable when it’s out of character. From Indian Lakes can afford to explore the livelier avenues of “Fog,” but for now, most of the album’s present sounds are particularly subtle ones.