Wednesday, April 14, 2010

River City Extension Review

River City Extension - The Unmistakable Man (2010)
Genre: Folk, Punk, Indie-Rock
Grade: A
Release Date: May 11th
Standout Tracks: "Friends & Family", "Our New Intelligence", "South For The Winter", “Today, I Feel Like Evolving”

The release of The Unmistakable Man is not just another album that will be floating around in obscurity. This will put this New Jersey eight-piece band on the map, likely skyrocketing them to new heights they've never dreamed of before. For as much heart and soul they convey on this record, they deserve every last bit of it.

We begin with an ambient intro titled after the album's namesake, with string instruments resting on sound clips from old-timey speeches, similar to the atmospheric touch that Titus Andronicus was going for in The Monitor. However, what follows, is one of the strongest opening tracks I've heard all year, truly grabbing your attention with the storytelling lyrics.

"Friends & Family" seems to be almost a soliloquy of thoughts that not only the musicians in RCE might have, but could also be interpreted from a perspective that many people could relate to, for non-fans and long-time followers of Folk music alike. The presentation is incredible, hooking you immediately along, as if someone was extending their arm out and grabbing you aboard a train ride of an experience.
The instruments plateau to a climax towards the end of the song, as Joseph Michellini bellows out in pure emotion "Please forgive me, I wanna go home!" it is one wild, adrenaline-rush of a song.

This musical journey doesn't let up with the next track either, "Something Salty, Something Sweet" channeling the first of many orchestral harmonies and melodies to greet us along the way. It almost reminds me of a more high-tempo, cheerful Arcade Fire in certain sections. The chorus slipping out into the distance, allowing the guitars, horns, and percussion to take center stage, all the while the vocals slowly seeping back in again.

You can't help but feel the urge to sing or whistle along to the tune! "South For The Winter" gives us a look at the softer, more intimate side of the group. "Sun's gone down on every hope and dream, and I've yet to figure out just what's been eating at me / I've been seeing things fine, but it'd be fine if I could see this clear" the voice states in a hopeful, yet also melancholic demeanor. No longer than about a minute and half in the song, the tone is completely raised, capturing the audience with their presence once more. "Sometimes all I want is a job, and a god, and a wife. Lately, I've been thinking some stability would probably be nice! Another moment and I don't know what to say / I'm not in love, and I'm not inspired by today." the singer pontificates. We follow this passionate speech with powerful guitar chords, as if it was ripping into the hearts and minds of thousands of like-minded youth out there.

Clapping sound effects opens up the following track, "Our New Intelligence", which is the first of a few songs to feature a female vocalist on the album. Together, the two harmonize pleasantly. Suddenly, an almost barbershop quartet-esque chorus line is heard in the background, piercing through and captivating your interest once more. This song is the most well-executed on the entire album in the directional sense, as it's ambition allows it to really go all over the place, and boy does it deliver! The album takes a more dramatic turn after this with the woeful anthem "If I Still Own A Bible". The theatrics, the sorrow, and the bitterness that emits from this song is almost overwhelming. You can really tell that these songs must have come from the heart. "Don't put your trust in anyone or anything", states the song, followed by some very eerie feedback.

What could be the presumed single for The Unmistakable Man , "Adrianne" strikes next, which is essentially a hard-hitting tale about a woman named Adrianne who apparently knows nothing about the true nature of herself or the narrator of this song. Regardless, this is definitely a more than appropriate choice for a single. It's in your face, accessible, and for lack of a better word is really badass! An Hispanic twang obviously opens the following track "Mexico", and you can really tell everyone is just having a lot of fun in the studio at this point, a slew of feel-good moments that you could easily find yourself dancing to or bobbing your head along to in this one. The saxophonist instrumentals here are just killer, great guitarmanship as well.

Not letting up, what could easily be heard in just about any Irish pub in the Northeast, "Too Tired To Drink" is something you'd expect they got some influence from straight out of the Flogging Molly catalog. Makes sense that they'll be opening for them in a few weeks. You practically feel like your at the bar throwing down some cold ones and jamming right alongside them!

"Holy Cross" introduces us with a few stationary piano notes, before the vocals and remaining instruments follow suite. The piano guides us, as you can tell the album is slowly drawing us to the curtains closing, the final points being set in motion. "Holy Cross" seems almost haunting at times, denying the point of religion with statements like "Remember when we used to give a ****, well I don't think the lord understands." The overall message sent here seems to often be detachment from the rest of the world.

"Today, I Feel Like Evolving" is a mostly acoustic piece, continuing to reflect upon things like purpose, dreams, and why we do the things we do. "And since then I've been more careful, bout the things I do or say / I will keep my lover close to me, until I see the day / That I must answer for my words and gain perspective on my placement in the world." One of the definitive lyrics of The Unmistakable Man . The emotion soars to the highest point here, the feeling of being united by the fear of the unknown seemingly the message they are trying to get across. “Letter To Lainie” is another song with a piano introduction, the first thing that comes to mind is if Spoon did a country single, this is what it would sound like! Could definitely have some second single potential with this track.

Finally, the sound effects of what appears to be a train leaving for it’s next destination, leads to the closing song entitled “Waiting In The Airport”. It is genuine, heartfelt, and comes off as very sincere. This is the perfect ending to one of the most solid efforts I’ve heard this year thus far. Everything seems to come together in The Unmistakable Man . Pacing? Check. Authenticity? Check. Even the production value seems stellar. If this album is any indicator, expect great things to come from River City Extension for a long, long time to come.

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