Articles for the Month of January 2016

What time is it? It’s Five40 !

Rocking the scene since 2013, Atlanta’s ‘Five40’s’ debut album “Inhale the Sound” has dropped.  According to the band they play a “…mixture of reggae, rock and ska [that] has been described as smooth, powerful and sometimes hypnotic.  Let’s have a listen…

 

  1. “Positivity”- A lone guitar starts things off, followed by quiet percussion and a spacey synthesizer. The song changes tempo frequently, switching between a “chill” and more “frantic” mood.  There is also an excellent guitar solo near the end.  This is one of the more unique songs I have heard in the genre.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Out of My Head”- This is your classic laid back reggae rock number. I’m not sure if it is studio trickery or not, but the trumpet solo at the 2:00 mark has the richest tone I have ever heard. Amazing!  Also the organ really kicks it up a notch near the end.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Burn for Me”- This appropriately named tune starts out as a “slow burn” taking about a minute before the trumpet and vocals begin.  This rather mellow number does in fact rock out towards the end, letting the guitar player stretch his musical legs, so to speak.  Also there is nice accenting by the trumpet once again.  This song is amazing!  Grade: A

 

  1. “Breathe”- Even for those that are vehemently against any type of rap-style lyrics, this is not off-putting. Also this style contrasts very nicely with the smoother vocal stylings found during other parts of the song.  There are also long gaps between the vocals, letting the instrumentation shine.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “The Swap”- “The Swap” switches things up vocally again, but this time the smooth vocals are interjected with a gruffer style. Overall, I did not enjoy this and for me it takes away from the song a bit.  I do love the organ part however, making this still an above average tune.  Grade: B+

 

  1. “Feelin’ Alright”- This next song is relatively stripped down musically, featuring nothing more than the guitar, bass and drums.  It is near the last minute where the almost psychedelic organ comes onto the scene, much like that in  “Positivity.”  I have a feeling that this one will grow on me the more I listen to it.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Smokin’”-Hmmm, a reggae band that sings a song about smoking. I didn’t see this one coming!  Clichés aside, this is a great song that showcases more of this band’s signature sound.  I dig it.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Skarma”- This is a reggae rock number interjected with the third wave sound. It seems a bit disjointed at times, switching back and forth between the two styles.  The musicianship is here, but overall, this one fell a little flat with me.  Grade: B

 

  1. “Ocean Floor”- “Ocean Floor” takes the formula from many of the previous songs on this album:  having a relatively mellow number for 2/3 of the song and then letting the organ/trumpet do their thing at the end.  Pushing this aside, I really love this number.  And although there is nothing new or groundbreaking in terms of style, this song is as amazing as the rest.  Good job fellows!  Grade: A

 

There is ska and then there is reggae and then there is reggae rock.  While I enjoy all of these genres to a certain extent, ska is my favorite as it lends itself to greater variety (traditional, 2-tone, ska-punk, metal-ska etc.).  Bands in the other two categories tend to all sound the same after a while.  Or so I thought: enter Five40.  Caught somewhere between Starpool’s Alan Meade and The Urge’s Steve Ewing, Five40’s lead singer leads his musical troops on a full scale reggae-rock attack.  The smooth vocals are found on every track of ‘Inhale the Sound,’ and are the cornerstone to the likeability of the album as a whole.  Even when more range in vocal style is shown as in “Breath” and “The Swap” the songs are still a class act.  What makes this band stand head and shoulders above the rest in the reggae rock class are the use of the trumpet and organ.  Sure these are mainstays in both reggae and ska, but it is how they are used here that is truly special.  Never before have I heard the organ/synthesizer used to create the spacey, psychedelic sound in the ska/reggae world.  This is usually reserved for prog. rock and more recently, the indie music scene.    This is truly fantastic here and gives this band that certain edge, while remaining true to its roots at the same time.  Moving on to the trumpet.  As mentioned before, it seems that the trumpet here has a richer tone-maybe because it is found by itself and not muddled amongst other horns.  Anyway-kudos.   Every song here is great and I can’t wait to have a second (and third) listen.  This band has changed my mind on the reggae-rock set and I hope it will for you too.  So take a moment, lay back and “inhale the sound.”

 

Overall Grade: A-

 

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Get LIVE with The New Limits

The New Limits are back with a newish (as of November 2015) collection of live tunes.  To quote the band, “on April 2015, The New Limits were invited by DIY aficionado and WEMF radio host Andrew “F-Word” Lowery to visit his show “D.I.Why.” Between conversations about the state of the ska scene and the band’s influences, The New Limits performed 5 songs. Recorded in one take with no overdubs, this performance captures the band at its best.”  Let’s check it out…

 

  1. “Pressure Up”- Pick it up people! Let’s start things off with a rocksteady dance number.  Seriously, this tune will get you off your duff and make you want to start skanking the night away.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Saturday Morning”- This song has everything a ska song should have-loud horns, traditional ska guitar and a low roaring organ. Good stuff right here!  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Part of Me”- “Part of Me” slows things down a bit from the previous two ditties but is every bit as strong. The vocals are the standout; the lead vocalist really let’s his singing chops shine.  Grade: A

 

  1. “Priceless”- I really like the soul component of this song. Once again the horn section and organ ring out in full force.  Grade: A-

 

  1. “Transition”- The vocals are a little hard to hear at times, but that aside this is still a solid number. It brings in more of a rock feel than the rest of the album, while maintaining the overall brassy feel.  This is not my favorite tract, but it is enjoyable none the less.  Grade: B +

 

We’ve all had it happen to us.  After listening to a band’s album ad nauseum for months on end, you are finally standing in front of the stage, eagerly anticipating the first note to come out of the speakers.  And then it happens…the band that you loved so much puts zero effort into their live performance, or worse yet, everything you liked about the album, is  solely because of  studio effects and manipulation.  Your beloved band has zero talent.  They are but mere “recording artists” in the likes of Justin Bieber and Ashlee Simpson.  I am glad to proclaim this is not the case with The New Limits.    Top notch performances are found at not only the lead vocalist position, but also by those flanking him on all sides of the mic. In this collection of 5 songs, they show their musical range with both slower and more up-tempo numbers.  There is also a smattering of rock, and swing thrown in for good measure as well.   This is a must for any New Limits fan, no, every ska fan to add to their collection.  The New Limits fans will appreciate the live versions of the already released “Pressure Up” and “Saturday Morning” as well at the new material found in the last two tracks.   For many of us this will be the closest thing we will get to actually seeing them live (until the come to Wisconsin!),  but I can imagine, this comes in at a close second!

 

Overall Grade: A-

 

 

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