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.
Transistor-on Takes “The Way Back Down” on EP
Transistor-on calls their goods “fuzzed out reverb music,” and in the spirit of post-rock, EP The Way Back Down is full of that melodious texture and sensation. Recorded at The Cottage with Damon Moon, The Way Back Down is a mere four tracks. But those songs make a satisfying sampling of a band with a big future ahead.
Atlanta duo Joey Piersante and Chris Armistead offer up a hazy fugue state that is the blueprint for this coming summer, showing that they can run with the best of the lo-fi crowd with their unique rhythms and finger-picking. The minimalist use of instruments that whip up the dream poppy wall of sound succeeds in taking the listener in a layered, chill journey.
Tracks like “Calling Out” and “Solar Flare” are so catchy (the former with its title refrain; the latter with its main guitar melody), that they etch onto your brain and trick you into thinking these are songs that have been around for maybe 20 years or so already.
Reviewers are throwing out comparisons—and they’ll continue to—of Transistor-on to Explosions in the Sky. The similarities are there for sure; both bands share a genre, after all. But saying only “they remind me of Explosions in the Sky” overlooks the fact that Transistor-on are stepping out in earnest on this EP, sounding comfortable in their skin without being jaded. Plus, having smoky vocals on the tracks adds to the spacey miasma and mystery that serves as the overarching feel of the record. The singing on “Empty Planet,” for example, highlights the track’s slow burn into its rocking guitar-driven crescendo.
Though the last piece on The Way Back Down is called “Exit,” by no means is that a harbinger of the band’s future. Transistor-on closes with a sure-footed tapestry of distortion and crisp rhythm, wrapping up a consistent and skillful release that definitely marks their arrival.
The Way Back Down is available to stream on SoundCloud or for purchase on iTunes. The gorgeous photo cover by Richard Casteel.
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Emily Hearn Saves Time in a Bottle on “Hourglass”
Emily Hearn’s sonic journey on Hourglass shows that she is a woman coming into her own, figuring out the knots of past heartache, the bliss of newlywed life, and the passage of time.
Time acts as the overarching narrative on the record; Hourglass spans the two years following the Athens, GA native’s debut Red Balloon and 2013 EP Promises. “We fall in or out of love as time moves us,” she explains. “We learn life-changing lessons as time goes on. We figure out how to handle important relationships as time shapes us. We decide who we want to be and what we believe as time reveals our priorities. And ultimately, we grow older as time goes by.”
Hearn sings wistfully “Oh, to be young, and to have time” on the third track “Oak Tree,” longing for the naïve feeling that time would never move forward, or at least not so fast. She frets over seeing her parents age so quickly. The existential worries of a twenty-something come delivered in a package of a catchy, infectious chorus and clap-along-able melody.
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