In-Flight Safety Delivers Melodic Indie Rock with “Conversationalist”

2 Apr

In-Flight Safety is another gift to us from Canada. The melodic, indie rock band from Halifax, Nova Scotia, consists of two members — John Mullane (vocals and guitar) and Glen Nicholson (drums), with other artists brought in as needed in the studio or on tours.

In-Flight Safety made its debut just over a decade ago with an EP called Vacation Land. Two full albums followed in 2006 and 2009 before the band’s most recent release, Conversationalist, in the fall of last year. We just received it at KZSU, so it’s new to us — as it may be to you.

In its early years, In-Flight Safety built quite a following, doing a lot of touring across North America and Europe. After traveling extensively in support of their last album, We Are An Empire, My Dear, Mullane was busy writing film scores — while Nicholson pursued a university degree in architecture. Former band members on the bass and keyboards left for other opportunities. So, when the boys started working on Conversationalist in 2011, according to their website they held thousands of conversations to fuel the creative process. And Conversationalist was born.

The band’s sound is hard to describe in a single convenient phrase. Some might think of the music as guitar-driven indie rock, but it’s always melodic at its foundation. Others might describe it as power pop, but there are notable exceptions. And In-Flight Safety has incorporated the synthesizer in some very appealing ways on a number of the songs on this album.

However you might describe it, it’s definitely worth your time, with numerous standout tracks that take you on far-off flights as you explore the band’s sonic scenery.

The album opens with a mellow, one-minute prelude called “Before We Were Animals.” Rapidly strummed mandolin (or something similar) accompanies piano and reverbed vocals. This sets the stage for the best song on the album. “Animals” is joyous, up-tempo power pop — with catchy, ringing guitar hooks and soaring vocals. The lyrics turn a bit of a harsh eye toward our place in the world of animals.

Close behind “Animals” is “Destroy,” which starts off wistfully and melodically — a song that could be Coldplay from its earlier years. But then, it shifts gears into another guitar-driven, power pop classic with Mullane’s rich vocals.

The next track, “Caution Horses,” brings the synthesizer front and center. It provides a jittery music bed for a song that is a leisurely stroll with airy and distant vocals and bigger ringing guitars.

Track 8, “Crowd” is an interesting song because it’s essentially an instrumental — with ethereal, atmospheric “lyrics” that are unintelligible…sounds rather than words. The song will remind you of the guitar work from bands such as Real Estate and The War on Drugs.

The album closer, “Firestarter,” is uplifting and optimistic, tripping along to the lightness of Mullane’s guitar. Then, about halfway through, the song rises up to deliver a satisfying power pop conclusion.

Chances are, In-Flight Safety hasn’t been on your radar screen. But Conversationalist is one excursion you should definitely take.


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