The Whigs:In the Dark


RIYL: Dinosaur Jr., Foo Fighters, The Replacements

In the Dark starts out by rolling over you with a wall of guitars that, far from dissonant and buffeting, instead envelops you like the wind before a promising storm, and like some great thunder, the Whigs continue to prove they are an experience not to be missed.

Coming off their well-received second album, Mission Control, and a series of acclaimed live shows (not the least of which was a standout performance at the 2008 SXSW), it is evident that the hard core touring and energetic playing has only invigorated their songwriting. In the Dark is the Whigs’ best album yet, and one that engages from beginning to end.

The album is power rock, through and through, but it never forgets that melody and rhythm shouldn’t be sacrificed for that power. It is the same for the lyrics, as throughout Parker Gispert is clearly singing from those hidden places where anger and regret fester, but he refuses to either rage or mope. There is as much a sense of resolute energy as anything, even when he sings “Kill Me Carolyn” or questions his lust for “Someone’s Daughter.”

Most of the album openly embraces their primary influence, the more hard-rocking post punk of the Replacements (most evident on “Automatic” and “So Lonely,” with no little bit of the Godfathers thrown in there on the title track and the opening “Hundred/Million.” The production is just tight enough and the arrangements original and lush enough to push it beyond any assumed imitation, and the first five tracks are solid Whigs.

Then, just when it feels like you have a handle on the album, they throw you a hard curve right in the middle. “Dying” comes on and everything shifts into a heavy rhythmic chant full of psychedelic influences. It tosses you into dark places only hinted at up until now. That is the flow of the album. An energetic, but evident descent into the viscera of the music, but then the steady, strong drive that leads us back out; an inverted emotional parabola that never slows, but never lets us off the ride, either. Check out “I Am for Real” as the perfect catharsis moment.

In the Dark ends with a mini-jam session of a song, “Naked,” at times minimalist and echoing, while at others a pulsing rocker. It is one of the more inventive and original works that lets the Whigs flaunt their talent, energy and idiosyncrasies.

Check out In the Dark. It is one of the better albums to come along so far this year, and it should win them new fans while pleasing their faithful. Listen loud! ATO Records 2010

The Whigs MySpace page

  

The Echo Falls: The Echo Falls

The Echo Falls is a lesson in simplicity – the debut album from this San Francisco based trio features three guys (including front man and songwriter Alex Mandel) who will remind you of both ‘70s pop (think Loggins & Messina or Seals & Crofts) and current lo-fi hipsters (think Death Cab for Cutie). Delivering songs using only an acoustic guitar, upright bass and sparse drums and percussion will do that, but the tracks themselves have an endearing vibe that is a refreshing counterpoint to what passes for adult album alternative these days. Mandel waffles between tenor and falsetto and does it with ease, and the songs range from the triumphant kickoff “Road to Parnassus” to the (you have to hear this to believe it) They Might Be Giants-meets-Suzanne Vega quirky vibe of “Watchtower.” There’s other elements at work here too; breezy college rock (“Every Second Thought” and “You Have it All”) and ‘70s folk (“Fall Asleep in the Sand”). But the best track of all is “Love Over Time,” which could be the best guitar song Ben Folds never wrote. There’s enough to please many folks on this debut – it’s not like you can vary things a whole lot with sparse production, but the Echo Falls do a pretty decent job of it. (The Echo Falls 2009)

The Echo Falls MySpace Page

  

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