The story of The Submarines is so endearing that it can make you want to like the album before even hearing it. John Dragonetti and Blake Hazard have bounced around the music scene for years as solo artists as well as members of other bands. Through mutual friends they ended up meeting and touring as parts of each other’s bands, while forming a romantic relationship of their own.
After touring the world together and dating for four years, they moved to L.A. where the relationship quickly fell apart. From heartbreak comes inspiration, which spurred John and Blake to write songs about each other and their break up. Blake had to use John’s studio to record her songs, allowing the former couple to hear the songs they had written about each other. Soon the relationship flared back to life and they combined their individual songs with new ones to make an entire album. Sell the story, cast Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, and I think you’ve got a romantic comedy hit.
The ebb and flow of The Submarines personal relationship can be heard through the progression of Declare a New State. Sadness and anger dominate several of the songs while happiness prevails in others.
The songs have a similar sound to other duets currently producing music. The rock interlaced with synthesizer is most like The Postal Service and Stars, if a little darker than the hug and kiss type sound of the latter.
The lyrics are all well thought out and meaningful, but what else would you expect from the great granddaughter of F. Scott Fitzgerald? The sadness of “Clouds” is palpable. It comes through in Blake’s voice when she sings the words, “But I won’t cry my baby / Tthere’s blue skies for me / Even when the clouds roll in / I still want you near me.”
“Modern Inventions” has a more grandiose sound, with an almost choir-like harmony and prominent string arrangement. The happier sound is punctuated by the oft repeated chorus “From here we roll on.”
Most of the album remains appropriately down tempo to fit the lyrics. The songs lack the catchy hooks of the bands referenced earlier, but that is not really the point. It is the power of the lyrics that make Declare a New State! important. The music is enjoyable, but it works best as a means of conveying the story. John and Blake have created an album that invites you into their lives while holding a mirror to your own.