This follows 2006's "Appreciation Night" (praised by the likes of Rolling Stone, The NY Times, Alternative Press, URB, and The Chicago Tribune). "The Family Afloat" expresses a crucial personal transition and a collective one. The band quit their day jobs to tour relentlessly, then made the communal decision to return to the more stable life of work weeks and strong roots. But there's no settling down in these songs: family life is raw and confusing; as uncomfortable and unexpected and rewarding as it is crucial.
Review by Tim Sendra
The Bound Stems brand of hyper-literate, high-energy rock & roll is destined to earn them comparisons to the Arcade Fire, especially when speaking of their second album The Family Afloat. Fair enough, they do share a similarly brainy approach and both are happy to load the songs with plenty of instruments and voices. The difference is that the Bound Stems owe more to the wordy emo of bands like Mates of State or Tilly and the Wall or the twitchy math rock of Polvo than the epic bombast of the Boss. Also there's a wild energy and abandon to the Bound Stems' sound that helps put the songs across and gives them their own identity. Though sometimes the energy threatens to send things spinning out of control, there is enough grounding the album (the massed voices-singing history teacher by day Bobby Gallivan's knotty and short story-esque lyrics, the wiry guitars that give the songs an electrical charge, Evan Sult's nimble drumming) to keep it listenable throughout. Some of the slower songs like "Clear Water & Concrete" let down the side a bit as they tend to drag, especially in comparison to the uptempo tracks that sound like they are about to burst out of the speakers. The songs that really connect, though, like the woozily dramatic epic "Cloak of Blue Sky" and the thrilling "Taking Tips from the Gallery Gang," which opens the album with a kick to the head, are the equal of any Arcade Fire song, and added together make a case that the Bound Stems are on the trail of something pretty great on The Family Afloat.