NO WAY IN NO WAY OUT (SILLS AND SMITH): ALTERNATIVE TO THE ALTERNATIVE

51omOu6uGcL._SL500_AA280_Article by PJ Cornell.

Syndicated from the Asterisked Music Journal.

Assessment: 9.0 out of 10.

Bottom line up front: Imagine yourself somewhere in Canada. There’s snow on the ground. It’s dark. It’s cold. As you walk down the ice-laden road, you see a bar nestled amidst the pines. The lights inside flicker a warm glow out onto the frozen ground below. As you approach, you hear a band playing. The music is as warm and inviting as the weather outside is cold and harsh. You step into the bar. The band’s drummer gives you a smile and a nod as you approach the bar. You order a whiskey on the rocks. The drink is cold, but sweet, and warms you as it goes down. You let the fire on the hearth, your stiff drink, and the full sound of the band wash over you until you’re relaxed from head to toe.

Highlights: The best part of this album is that it is so stylistically expansive. There’s something for everybody: metal, post-hippie jams, country, adult alternative, and good old alternative rock. This band’s sound is very thick, and the songs have good trajectory. Would it be Different is a Pink Floydesque favorite of mine. Lot’s of complex harmonies, good use of vocal technique, and amazing guitar solos. Melancholy World is another really good one; it’s a very upbeat, yet emotionally complex song with a beat that anyone can get behind, and guitar solos that make your soul ache. I Can’t Reach You is a good bluesy jam. In Pain, they demonstrate their artistic versatility by busting out a straight-up numetal anthem which is strangely consistent with the feel of the rest of the album. These Ghosts is a dreamlike song with a country feel.

Criticisms: My only real criticism is that, in some of their songs, they would do well to space out the lyrics a little more. It occasionally seems that they try to compress too many words into a short space. They would do well to use shorter poems, or else give their song a little more space to breathe. They’re choruses are usually the highlights of their songs; for example, in I’m Right Here, their verses are little too wordy, but the chorus: “I’m right heeeeeeeere, I’m right heeeeeeeere….” gives me chills every time.

Conclusion: This is an excellent album, overall. The more you listen to it, the more you like it. This album is better than their first one, a worthy effort in its own right (review pending) and I think the next one will be even better. I look forward to hearing it.

SILLS & SMITH: AN UPCOMING INTEGRATION OF SOUND

No Way In No Way Out  - SILLS & SMITH  CD Artwork frontArticle by PJ Cornell.

Syndicated from The Asterisked Music Journal.

Assessment: 8.8 out of 10.

Bottom Line Up Front: This is a band with a very full sound.  It’s a big sticky ball of alternative rock that rolled down a grassy hill, picking up pieces of several other genres in its path.  If you are a fan of Our Lady Peace, but think they’re too morose, you’d probably love these guys.  Their songs are different enough, that you really have to listen to their songs 2-3 times before you really “get” them, but not so different that they are likely to alienate audiences.

Highlights: The two things that really stand out about this band are the harmonic content, and the guitar solos.  This isn’t your 3-chord rock; think more John Lennon.  And when they cut their lead guitar loose, it’s something to experience.  Great solos.  The vocalists interact with one another very well, as well.  Their best song is Would it All be Different.  It starts off simply enough with a simple progression in the rhythm and a simple tune on top of it.  Then everything drops off, and we are treated to a Dream Theater-esque symphonic experience.  The guitars play a beautiful, quiet riff, while the vocalists create sonic textures that are somehow reminiscent of both Morton Feldman and medieval liturgical music.  The section culminates in a very gratifying guitar solo before reprising to its original thought.

Criticisms: I don’t have much bad to say about these guys.  Obviously prolific and talented.  My one suggestion is that there are a couple ways this band could go in the future.  This band could easily fall into the trap of losing touch with the listener if they try too hard to be different.  So long as they don’t try to force it, though, I think these guys will just keep getting better and better with time.

Conclusion: I look forward to experiencing new musical landscapes with these guys in the future.