Les Paul - 1959 reissue

Les Paul - 1959 reissue

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Rejectionist Front - Evolve (2017)

Written by Mike Yoder, posted by blog admin

Rejectionist Front has scored some important appearances on compilation recordings and shared the same stages as legendary acts like George Clinton and P-Funk, Joan Baez, and Tom Morello, among others in an obvious confirmation of their growing status in the modern music world. Their music doesn’t necessarily remake the wheel, but it takes up the mantle of intelligent hard rock and adds distinctive multi-part vocals to their songwriting mix that set them apart from the pack. They also share the rare distinction of never overextending things the way some acts in this vein do – instead, Rejectionist Front specializes in songs that never run on too long yet contain a vast musical world within relatively contained space. Evolve is a wildly expressive and musically satisfying ride that their existing fans will embrace and new listeners will admire a great deal.

The album begins with “Ride” and it’s one of the near anthems on Evolve from a band who could likely turn out “call to arms” songs in their sleep. The passion coming across through Michael Perlman’s singing and the backing vocals from bassist Tony Tino and guitarist Lincoln Prout play an important role in planting this first song deep in listener’s memories. The near progressive guitar textures of this first cut give way to a clearer rock and roll edge from the second tune “All I Am” and it’s much more of a vocal performance resting on Perlman’s back with strategically placed secondary singing along the way. This is one of the rhythm section’s best performances from Evolve and has a free-wheeling, barnstorming quality that the band revisits and refines in later tunes as well. Rejectionist Front’s strong lyrics stand out on the third song “Savior” and the vocals enhance them quite a bit with their fierce yet musically aware phrasing. Prout’s guitar work makes a number of songs on Evolve soar higher than they perhaps might have with a lesser player, yet has a sense of restraint uncommon to lead players in this genre that strengthens the song’s impact.

There’s a slightly lighter air surrounding the track “All Is the Same” and Perlman’s voice recalls Eddie Vedder’s delivery, but never slavishly. There’s some great backing vocals too that dovetails well with the near jangle that Prout’s guitar adopts for significant periods of the song. They toy with another near anthem on the album’s sixth song “Reclaim” but, as before, Rejectionist Front stays away from the sort of histrionics typifying most songs of this type. The personal stakes informing the band’s socially conscious material is one of the factors that set them apart from many of their generation. Prout’s six string playing is especially good on this song. The single “Flush” has been accorded a video as well and there’s a strongly commercial quality to the song that makes it one of the more appealing cuts on Evolve. The second to last song on the album, “Resurrection”, has a wildly inventive arrangement that plays well in its spartan and heavier iterations. Their mastery of bringing dynamics into their songs is notable from the opening to beginning of Evolve and there’s not a moment of filler to be found on the band’s second studio release.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Shofar - s/t (2017)

Written by David Shouse, posted by blog admin

Shofar’s early catalog, available on CDBaby, doesn’t differ wildly from their return to recording, a self titled six song effort. Perhaps their songwriting concerns are a little more secularized than they were in the Minneapolis band’s earlier incarnation, but Shofar has always been more about a thoughtful, intelligent hue for the songwriting rather than some pulpit thumping broadside in a musical package. The six songs on this new EP lean more towards commercially minded and melodic rock with a mid-tempo pace, but there are some notable exceptions on this new release. Vocalist and main songwriter Larry Hagner remains a vital force at the center of the band’s compositions and has a talent for pouring a definable presence into the band’s performances. A number of these cuts should prove especially effective in a live setting.

“Running” opens the EP up with a blend of aggressive riff-focused guitars and some lengthy passages, especially during the verses, where they are more fixed on offering color to the piece. The hard rock portions of the track never really come again on this release, but Shofar shows they are more than capable of discharging some believable crunch through their music. “Powerman” is much more in keeping with the bulk of the EP, though it does place a greater emphasis on melody than instrumental assertiveness. It is, probably, the song on the EP best illustrating some of the band’s more obvious musical influences while still stamping the lyrics with a distinctive identity. “Shades of Grey”, unlike the aforementioned tune, looks within instead of without and demonstrates the immense artistry that Hagner and his band mates bring to the band’s more obviously personal material.

“Hands Down”, however, is much more clearly in a rowdy rock mode than any song save the first one. It boasts a particularly zesty chorus, as well, with Hagner riding high on the wave of its momentum. The band turns in their most inspired performance of the release as well and it’s keyed by a superb bit of drumming that sticks in the memory. We end up in a more poetic, imaginative realm with the EP’s final two cuts as “Countdown” envisions impending global calamity while the ending tune “The Coming” is open to a number of interpretations depending on your own imagination and familiarity with Shofar’s past material. Once again, they distinguish themselves by providing a compelling musical landscape and allowing listeners to arrive at their own conclusions. This self-titled EP is an experience like that – it doesn’t force itself on listeners but, instead, shares its heart and communicates with the hope that it finds different meaning with each new encounter.