If Wembley’s plan is to play hard to get with current and future fans, they’re succeeding. Their last EP, 2010’s Keywords For Robots, was the sort of four-song appetizer that a newish band offers as a tantalizing teaser for an upcoming full-length. It offered an act interested in textures and sonics as much as melody, songs that were comfortable taking the scenic route. Those tunes exude a modest confidence that comes from musicians who know what they want to do and have the ability to put those sounds on tape.
As far as pinning those sounds to names you know, though, good luck. In his Independent Weekly review of Robots, Grayson Currin mentioned Spoon, but that comparison has more to do with Wembley’s effortless way with an arrangement than an actual sonic similarity. The band members, when given the chance to shoot their mouths off, like to name-drop the Beatlesthe equivalent of a chef giving props to chicken. Instead of bringing to mind actual precedents, Wembley turns that oh-so-rare trick of encapsulating the spirit of your favorite bands without ever sounding exactly like them.
This encomium brings us to Wembley’s latest offering, You Are Invisible. Calling this new EP a departure would be a stretch, though there are some distinctions. Where the previous batch of songs keyed on the pedal steel, Invisible puts the spotlight squarely on Elizabeth Hull’s piano. The EP’s final track, “Dark Passage,” is her shining moment. During an extended intro, Hull unfurls a gorgeously melancholy melody in tandem with some equally sad and sweet cello work from Birds & Arrows’ Joshua Starmer. That’s not to dismiss what the rest of the group contributes, though: Gorgeous vocal harmonies abound, and there’s a perfectly sloppy guitar solo slapped onto the end of “Bongo.”
It’s also worth noting the work Triangle legend Jerry Kee does behind the boards. Under Kee’s watch, there’s a welcome looseness to the proceedings. His production lends a certain ragged charm to these otherwise fastidiously constructed songs, allowing for showier moments (like the point in “(Did You Give Him) Pills” where the song shifts into Big Rock Mode) to shine. If there’s anything wrong with You Are Invisible, it’s its brevity. At this point in the band’s admittedly young career, Wembley parceling their songs out one EP at a time just isn’t going to cut it. The next time they come out with new music, it had better be in bulk, or we’ll, once again, have to pout about it.