From my music blog: Rock Sellout
Declare a New State is the story of Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti. It's a story of love that wasn't recognized or expressed until it was too late. And though the journey takes the listener to dark places – dealing with topics like isolation, depression, breaking up, and separation – it still manages to be uplifting. Perhaps it's because the existence of this album proves the ultimate cliché, that love conquers all, and does so with definitive beauty.
The album as a whole is very mellow, musically soothing…gorgeous…with glimmering production. Despite being down tempo, every song commands your attention with subtle hooks, unexpected changes and effects, and, most importantly, the stunning male and female vocal melodies and harmonies of John and Blake respectively. Their voices seem to be perfectly "in tune" with each other. It's very difficult to point to a few moments of glory on an album that is consistently great from start to finish, but I'll try.
"Vote" is a song about giving everything to once again be with someone you love. A song dealing with this topic could easily become overly sentimental but it doesn't. The conviction in the lyrics and John's delivery of them – intimate and close – made me feel as a voyeur. The song exemplifies unexpected changes and lyrical moments that draw you further in. On the lyric "I saw a silver sun, and I wanted it to touch everyone" the music and drums drop away and leave only John's thin voice and backing vocals dripping with reverb: a near perfect musical expression of optimism in the face of hopelessness. My favorite lyric on the album is in this tune treated with a subtle stutter/skip effect: "We are scientists, we will not be afraid."
Modern Inventions exemplifies The Submarines' mastery of invoking emotion in the listener. Blake's female vocal has an irresistibly exquisite tone that, when combined with John's in the layered harmonies on the chorus, brings about a feeling of reconciliation and resolution…"from here we roll on." And that's just it, The Submarines are able to craft music – instrumentation, song structure, production, and effects – that perfectly support the vocals and, in the process, create an experience that often says more than the lyrics would on their own." Declare a New State showcases a duo of songwriters at their peak. If the album is an exploration of intimacy, that part of the human experience we all share, then it's comforting to know that such beauty can arise from despondency.
- David Morley