Almost every song on Ten Silver Drops can be traced to one of the rare '80s bands whose songwriting transcended their hairstyling. "Lightning Blue Eyes" brings back memories of Sparkle in the Rain-era Simple Minds, while "I Want to Know If It's Still Possible" is reminiscent of Tears for Fears' more Beatle-esque moments. Yes, Ten Silver Drops was obviously recorded after the world heard Jane's Addiction and Flaming Lips, but its roots lie in the '80s.
Disappointingly, Secret Machines suffers from the same shortcomings that plagued many '80s bands: the songs are well-crafted but they never shine, and the production masks the album's strengths rather than highlighting them. There are good ideas on Ten Silver Drops, but they should've cooked longer before Secret Machines tried to serve them up to the public.
The songs are anthemic but quirky, and the musicianship is strong without being flashy. As a whole, though, Ten Silver Drops is forgettable. On the few occasions where the songwriting is compelling, sub-par production and/or performances strip away all the emotion. The album is short, however, so even with the weaknesses, it still makes for an enjoyable listen.
Packaging: (Altered by EPFL?)
The cover, as I've seen it online, is a white-on-green design that is strong and simple. The EPFL version has the same cover art, but it's printed in metallic silver ink over a photo of a tree standing in dense undergrowth. The image is the far-right panel of a five-panel photo of the band standing by a lake in the woods; the back side of the insert is a five-panel photo of the band standing in front of the New York City skyline. It takes courage to devote so much space to two photos, and limit the text to a mere 67 words on the inner tray card. It would've been nice if they'd included the lyrics, but that would have destroyed the aesthetics of the design and the symbolic representation of the band's organic and synthetic alter-egos.
Listen if you like: '80s bands like Simple Minds or The Alarm, and/or indie rock like Flaming Lips or My Morning Jacket.
If it were food, it'd be: a hearty stew that's undercooked, leaving you with a mouthful of tough meat and crunchy potatoes.