It can be tough pinning down exactly why you like a new band, but quite often it can be due to one specific moment. Whether it's the vocal-collapse in the middle-eight of Slipping Husband that makes you re-listen to The National's back-catalogue, or the suspended melody line before the chorus in Wild Youth that proves Daughter are actually deserving of all the hype, the dividing line between not-interested and interested can very often be crossed by the tiniest of musical moments. This, of course, can then lead to a frustrating search for further signs of that first flash of inspiration; scouring the depths of Airborne Toxic Event's output with the vain hope of finding something even half as good as the climax of Sometime Around Midnight for instance, or sitting through interminable hours of Imogen Heap hoping to relive the excitement of hearing Hide and Seek for the first time.
In lesser hands, the defining moment of state-side independent band Listener could have been a single flash of interest buried in an excess of more pedestrian material. The MacGuffin of this band is, in their own words, “talk music” and on first listen it could easily be a middle-eight from an album track of a conventional jagged-indie rock band that want to try something a little 'out there' to break up the monotony of an otherwise staid and predictable record. What's fantastic about Listener, however, is that they have the courage of their convictions. Several albums worth of courage, in fact, and not once in their output does it sound like a gimmick. It's not poetry, and definitely not rap, but something a little harder to define; the lyrics and their forceful delivery are inextricably linked to the music in a manner that leaves the tag ‘spoken word’ somewhat wanting. This is clearly the music they have to make, and whether anyone likes it or not is besides the point.
Mercifully you'd have to be a fool not to like it, as their music is absolutely brilliant. Once the initial shock of the premise wears off (“is it really all like this?!”) the overriding impression is of energy and utter commitment. Their latest LP, Time Is A Machine, comes out here in England on the 22nd (our American cousins can get it a little earlier) and is an album packed full of subtle and sophisticated rock songs. This comes as a bit of a surprise given the raw, untempered nature of the delivery, but a quick dive into their back-catalogue proves that Listener have honed their very specific genre down to a fine art. If more bands had their self-belief and artistic confidence the world would be a better place.