Sinai Vessel began as a one-man project for singer/guitarist Caleb Cordes before ultimately becoming the fully-realized, collaborative group that produced the much-anticipated full length debut, Brokenlegged. The band’s early years culminated in Sinai Vessel’s excellent 2014 EP, Profanity, a record that drew on the outsized drama of mewithoutYou; the canny, observational nuances of Pedro the Lion; the literary smarts of Bright Eyes’ early-00s golden era. A thoughtful yet energized early offering, that early mini-album explored existential doubt, spiritual questioning, and hard-nosed questions about code and community. But Sinai Vessel the band actually formed in the aftermath of Profanity, a record helmed by Cordes and executed with a rotating cast of volunteers. Only after the album saw the light of day did the project turn into a more active, concrete group, filled out by drummer Joshua Herron and bassist Daniel Hernandez, both high school classmates of Cordes’ and — perhaps essentially – – fellow natives of the space and communities that so define Sinai Vessel. The band began to tour, leaning on and building from that sense of kinship and shared experience, and eventually informing the more collaborative and multifaceted Brokenlegged, an album that remarkably balances Cordes’ continued gift for first-person storytelling with a more markedly communal energy.
Brokenlegged, soon to be released by venerable indie label Tiny Engines, was recorded in its entirety twice. After writing, arranging, and completing the material for the LP all through 2014 and early 2015, the band finally toured to Lawrence, KS to record the album with a veteran producer. But ultimately something was still missing and the band decided to begin again, with a clearer sense of purpose. This time the band stayed in North Carolina (a move that seems all too apt considering their gift for rendering notions of home and origin), recording with David Wimbish, who helmed Profanity. The LP was finally finished in September of 2016. Ultimately, Sinai Vessel have made exactly the record they wanted to make, an admirable expression of uncompromised vision and perseverance. That zoomed-in determination is an apt match for the subtle, humanistic ideas explored on the album itself. A more measured, patient album than its predecessor, Brokenlegged allows its eight songs to stretch out and plumb wide fields of human emotion, with complex, challenging results. The record is, by definition, “lived-in”: the songs here find people trying to co-exist with and reconcile the doubts, anxieties, and ironies that have always been a theme in the band’s work. If Profanity found Sinai Vessel glimpsing hard truths through a glass darkly, then Brokenlegged, the band’s remarkable full-length debut, finds the trio wondering what one does next. What do you do when nothing is the same yet everyone refuses to admit things have changed? These are the questions begged by Brokenlegged. – Chad Jewett