picard: A Mixture of Discontent and Melodic, Driving Rock

picard is a project initiated by Jason Ulwelling in 2011 that has grown into a full-blown collaborative effort (including Brad Hanson and Eric Giardina, and various other influences and musicians), resulting in the release of the band’s first album (appropriately entitled “#1″) earlier this year. Style-wise, it’s hard to classify picard as anything more specific than “rock.” Some of their songs are edgy/harder. I can easily hear some grunge influence in several of the songs, as well as elements of epic rock story-telling (especially in “Ed”), like you might hear in classics like Queen or Led Zeppelin. Now, I’m not ready to draw too many comparisons between picard and hall of famers like them, but I truly appreciate what I have heard thus far from this band.

The first track on “#1,” a passionate, pleading song called “Distending,” houses the declaration “I’m holding out for something bigger than myself…” In that statement is what I believe to be the essence of the lyrical, melodic, and instrumental themes throughout picard’s first album. There is this discontent, this longing for more, this longing for deep connection, for something better, something bigger. This theme is one of the reasons that I was drawn to this project.

“Ed” may be my favorite song on the album. I have always enjoyed that epic feel in music, especially when it involves distinct “movements.” “Ed” is not a rowdy song at all, but it is intense, with methodical, driving guitars and intricate, nimble-fingered bass rifts. Probably my favorite part though is how the driving guitar transitions into a quiet segment of the song that is haunted by a gentle chimes. These musical elements combined with the story-telling therein portrays an intense, compelling, and emotive discontent.

While “Ed” is likely my favorite song, the track that drew me into picard initially was “October,” their first release. “October,” for the emotionally engaged listener, can be a pretty painful song to take in. There is such intense longing in the lyrics. The protagonist so desperately wants to be with someone. He is longing for intimate, deep connection with that person. However, obstacles continually appear (“These walls are getting higher”). The frustration rooted in this deep longing climax with a plea for explanation: “Why aren’t you here like you said you would be? You said you would… Tell me are any of these promises any good?” There is so much pain in these lyrics and the music/instrumentation fit the mood and tell the story so well… This is one of the main reasons I enjoy this band like I do is their ability to draw me in emotionally and help me feel what they are feeling. This is a gift and a dynamic that can be healing for both the artist and the listener.

picard is a breath of fresh air for me. Eau Claire has its share of punk and hardcore bands full of all the requisite angst anyone could want. We have many gifted indie rock musicians producing creative, quirky, and provocative stuff. But, we don’t have many melodic, driving, edgy rock bands. picard is that kind of band, without foregoing the angst of the punk/hardcore scene or the creativity of the indie rock community. They are a unique and healthy blend of all those various elements.

If you would like to experience picard’s music, “#1″is available on their website, among other outlets. You can also stream some of their music on their Facebook page. Furthermore, they are playing live this Saturday night at 10pm at House of Rock, along with Letters From Earth and Kids With Boats ($6 cover).

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