At first listen, Porcelain Empire is pleasant and enjoyable, with soaring, atmospheric vocals and richly textured musical arrangements. By the second listen, however, this debut album from Athens, Georgia indie-popsters, The Winter Sounds, starts to muddle together. Not only do the songs start to become indistinguishable from each other, but they start to become indistinguishable from every other atmospheric indie-pop song saturating the air waves these days. The similarity in sound and style to The Killers, especially, is so blatant that one wouldn’t be surprised to find the whole album was a collection of B-Sides from that band; what's missing is a little irony in the vocals and a few more catchy vocal hooks.
Porcelain Empire does exhibit a high quality of musicianship; also, the multi-layered tracks are testament to The Winter Sounds’ dedication to their craft. And while lead singer Patrick Keenan’s voice is good too, it almost feels as if the band fell too much in love with the studio. The songs often feel over processed or over produced. The best moments come when the band lets loose and rocks out, such as in “Static in the Whole,” but these moments are few and far between.
None of the songs on Porcelain Empire are bad, but there’s nothing distinctive or unique about them either. Hopefully a good dose of touring will help The Winter Sounds develop their own sound and some diversity in their songs. Emulating the sound of a great or groundbreaking band can be all well and good, but copying the sound of a band like the Killers, (who’s sound is a copy of a copy already), results in songs without freshness, and The Winter Sounds show enough promise to move beyond that.