Humans on the Floor’s “The First 1” is a spunky debut from an unexpected collaboration
Rob Bell and I have a few things in common. We both have an affinity for silence and deep topics (anyone remember the NOOMA videos from youth group?). We both graduated from Wheaton College. We both apparently lived in Traber Hall (a guys’ underclass dorm) – that’s a rumor, though. And, we both love sweeping music. This apparently includes the heartwarming folk rock sister trio Joseph.
Humans on the Floor is the latest collaboration to emerge from the pandemic period of the arts that I fully believe will be remembered as a sort of renaissance for this generation. In the past year, we’ve seen two albums from Taylor Swift, a surprise collaboration between Anderson Paak and Bruno Mars, and now this friendship between Rob Bell and the Closner sisters in Joseph manifesting in a quick, fun and thoughtful EP.
“To begin, the mix must be suitable for the occasion.” These are the words that lead off track two, “We Got the Set Up.” One astute commenter on the Humans on the Floor Instagram noted the song’s similarity to the B-52s. “Love Shack” it ain’t quite, but the alternating call back vocals from Bell and the Closner sisters have a sense of playfulness that is compelling. Rob Bell is an unlikely rock frontman in a sense, and the strong expressive vocals of Joseph flesh out these songs well. Bell sounds a bit like taking the frontman of Devo and placing him in a punk band.
My favorite track on the EP is, no doubt, “I Used to Be Sober All the Time.” The “Whoa, whoa, whoa” hook is bigtime fun injected into a song that comes across, intentionally I reckon, like a rant.
The strength that Joseph adds to this EP could be seen as a liability. While I don’t think the project ended up with a bad mix (hence fulfilling the exhortation kicking off “What it Sounds Like”), the juxtaposition of their strong, versatile vocals with Bell’s rant like, straightforward vocals means that for me I found myself often focusing more on the melodies and harmonies of the sisters rather than what Bell was trying to communicate. And, even though this EP doesn’t seem to be a super serious project (look at the large, friendly letters making up the font of the album cover!) I know that there is something Bell wants us to hear. It could be that my hearing isn’t 100% (this isn’t a rhetorical knock on the band – I actually have a mild impairment that I was born with) but I had to concentrate really hard to pick up on what was being said, rather than defaulting to bopping and humming along to the hooks. And, word on the street is Bell has been sitting on these songs for awhile – so I hope he makes more of an official statement on the EP’s messaging soon. From what I can gather, its a carthartic collection of bops appropriate for these times. Yeah, you’re probably tired of reading “appropriate for these times” but it needs to be mentioned!
One last thought – it’s oddly endearing to hear Bell sing in a British accent.
I lied – one more thought! This EP only heightens my desire to be pals with Joseph. Shout out to Marco Castro for making me a fan of theirs.