It’s the point in August where we’ve hit the sultry dog days, the air saturated with such humidity that you can’t even sit on the porch without getting drenched. It’s the kind of atmosphere perpetuated by The Revivalists’ outing City of Sound, a souvenir mason jar with the torrid and triumphal air of New Orleans captured inside of it.
City of Sound spans Mardi Gras festivities, southern rock, funk, and a lot more; not confined to any one genre, The Revivalists put out a bona fide jam that leaves you hankering to hear them live.
The first track, “When I’m Able,” is exemplary of The Revivalists’ ability to build; in an industry where volume is inherently ratcheted, “When I’m Able” discards popular habit and puts the opening drums and vocals on different planes; Andrew Campanelli’s syncopated percussion doesn’t compete with David Shaw’s throaty vocals, but supports them. George Gekas’ bass gives subtle hums as guitar tickles from above and a swaying sax joins in. “Able” is the introduction proper to what this band can do.
“When I Die” is a funky number, opening with Shaw’s soulful ahhs and moving into deep warbles akin to Mungo Jerry and a slick sax and guitar bridge. “Upright” is a smoky song that continues in the same funky vein, just slowed down; Rob Ingraham’s sax solo this time takes on a feverish quality that matches the world-is-upside-down longing for an ex.
“Pretty Photograph” has a dreamy presence heightened by Zack Feinberg’s guitar and Ed Williams’ pedal steel that elicits a gorgeous distant sound. With its gentle alt-country touches, “Pretty Photograph” is one of the sexiest tracks, with its inviting instrumentals and its spacey, unreal aura.
“Navigate Below” and “Criminal” skew more rock oriented, the former blending a Soundgarden sound with the funky overtones, the latter taking a Red Hot Chili Peppers direction. Neither, however, lose the NOLA sensibilities, but still show off the band’s ability to dabble in a variety of styles.
Opening with what sounds like a quirky Casio preset and the music box licks of the pedal steel, “Chase’s House” has one of the most memorable set of lyrics (“Well, I know I’m no fun when I’m mopin’ like the pope”) and is a fun, danceable track with sunny rhymes and a healthy grounding in catchy soul. It leads into the deceptive quiet start of “Masquerade,” which weaves along like a Mardi Gras parade, a perfect party companion to “When I Die.” But it is clever with its sound; the carefree instrumentals underscore the authority subverting lyrics.
With the gentle strums of the pedal steel, “Up in the Air” cruises with a laid-back attitude, a calm moment before the frantic, deep southern rock sound of “BTBD.” The closer is a truly steamy song, fierce and building. The melody bobs as it heads for a boozy end, everyone jamming at once in a delirious and fantastic cacophony. City of Sound doesn’t just recall New Orleans in name alone; the album is really a hub of jubilant harmonies.