Based on what I've heard of Pinback before, Offcell EP marks a change in direction for the duo of Armistead Burwell Smith and Rob Crow. My theory is that they simply got tired of the few critics who shrugged them off into the "emo" pile and have instead come out with a release that drops them into a rather delightfull pop territory. Like their other releases, it never manages to sound forced, and like those disc has plenty o hooks to get stuck in your head.
The release opens with "Microtonic Wave," and after an initial opening, it breaks off into one of the cheesiest sounding keyboard guitar sound melodies I've ever heard. Rather than let it get too far on its own, a thick rhythm section and some real guitars come in and tug it along while Smith and Crow cram the song with enough vocal melodies and other instruments to make sure something is happening at all times, yet never manage to overload things. The title track of "Offcell" thumps an almost hip-hop beat and layers of ascending guitars while the duo tosses in more of their little nook-n-cranny melodies (including a harpsichord and chimes).
After an intro piece that sounds like the track may be a little more experimental, the simply-titled "B" jogs off into what is easily the poppiest song on the entire album. Speedy verses give way to lazy choruses and the track jumps off into some downright rock-out moments before jumping right back into the original catchy melody and rhythm. The epic of the album is the 11-minute closer of "Grey Machine," though. Taking up one-third of the entire EP length, the track blends strings and some slow break drumming into what might be the first ever marriage between post rock and doo wop. By changing things up ever-so-slightly, the duo manages to keep the track interesting for the entirety, though.
Like a couple other releases that I've heard recently, this is a disc that didn't do a whole lot for me upon first listen, but instead burrowed into my head each and every time I listened to it after that. As mentioned above, there are lots of little melodies and instrumental pieces that fill in the different parts of songs, and they slowly work their way out on multiple listens. The vocals are mixed a little more to the front than on previous efforts by the group, but with the slightly more energetic sound, it's nothing that's distracting. An excellent half-hour of music.