Batfarm – In The Belfry

 Batfarm – In The Belfry

Batfarm – In The Belfry – EP Review

What a really rad story behind the music of Batfarm/journey to their debut EP, In The Belfry.  Allow me to sum it up as briefly as I can for ya before we crack into the music here…it goes something like, two multi-instrumentalists/musicians go walking into a bar and ask the bartender…

…alright…maybe it’s not quite like one of those tales.  In fact, for a duo that describes their music as ‘Darkedelic’ – the real story is much sweeter than you might assume.  As it turns out, Alexx Calise and Dennis Morehouse met each other through a mutual friend, soon after began to date, began to play a few songs together, then started to focus on solo careers, drifted apart on the romantic front, but eventually recognized that there was genuine potential in the creativity they shared.  In an extremely mature decision to continue making music together, they shifted their relationship in a direction more suited to them.  And here we are – they’ve done that now with In The Belfry.  What I really loved about reading their bio, was how clear they’ve made it that the respect and love for each other never died – it just changed and morphed into something new.  If ‘something new’ ends up sounding like this EP does, I think you gotta hand it to them for doing the right thing for the greater good – they’ve got a great debut record here & should be seriously proud of not giving up on the special bond they share between them.

For you see dear readers, dear friends…this here Batfarm record is literally stocked full of single-worthy songs…they’ve done a spectacular job on In The Belfry and really found incredible material & melodies to work with throughout their stunningly versatile set of six tunes on their debut EP.  Be it the music, or be it the microphone…these songs are pretty much bulletproof & belong on your playlist this year.  And next year…and the year after that – you get where I’m going with this – these songs will really hold up strongly over time.  Batfarm has got me believing…no doubt about it…there’s passion & power to be found all throughout the set-list on In The Belfry – and for just two people, they’re a verifiable force to be reckoned with when it comes to songwriting & execution.  No doubt about it, these are great songs.

Now…if I’m being totally honest here, even though I try to keep expectations out of the equation, I had a couple reasons to assume I’d be in for a fair amount of awesomeness here, given that we’ve run into Alexx Calise a couple times in the past here at the pages in collaborations with Sensitive Robot and she’s always put excellence into the microphone from what we’ve heard & know of her so far.  That being said – to hear her thriving in her own environment felt like hearing Calise the way she was always meant to be heard – her vocals are exceptionally radiant from the very beginnings of In The Belfry on “Get Out” right to the final moments of “End Transmission” & everything in between.  Exceptionally impressive really…like I said, I try not to have expectations of anyone out there…but even when I run into moments like reviewing this EP where they come into play a lil’ bit, it sure is rad when they’re all surpassed, 100%.

I really dig the unsuspecting way the record begins, with just a few sparse notes leading the way into “Get Out,” yet by ten seconds in, you’re right in the groove; with another thirty-five seconds or so, the duo detonate into decisive audio-entertainment and light the whole room you’re in up with the chorus.  A genuine case of ‘what’s not to love?’ here – “Get Out” has a brilliantly unique hook working in its favor whenever Calise sings the title, allowing her voice to really shine and show the professional she truly is.  Attacking this sing-along anthem of sorts, she leads the way here with resounding confidence that reveals that, while this may be a debut EP, she’s brings the instincts & songwriting of a true veteran to Batfarm.  Musically, although I don’t know who exactly does what or how they split the duties there between them; what I can tell ya is there’s not a step out of place here or anything at all that I’d change.  Right away, they confirm what they explain in their bio – the spark & chemistry still strongly exist between them when it comes to the music they make…solid crunch in the guitars, incredible bass-lines, crisp drum snaps, stunning vocals…all the ingredients involved really shine bright here as “Get Out” starts this sonic adventure.  Excellent mix as well…you can hear the professionalism running rampant through the production just as much as the performance itself – every instrument involved stands-out for all the right reasons, and key elements like the backing vocals/layers really stack up impressively.  Explosively entertaining!  Check it out for yourself – Dennis and Alexx get right into this song & video – “Get Out” gets this show on the road immediately and gives you something solid to rock-out with.

Together they dial back the intensity a bit and smooth out the second tune into more of a Rock-ballad on “Now That You’re Gone.”  Calise is magnificent here – she’s found some seriously breathtaking moments throughout this tune that will audibly astound your ears every bit as much as they have my own.  A heartbreakingly love-song…knowing the story shared between them, there’s likely going to be more than a few listeners & rock-critics that will hear a song like this and assume that it’s about the breakdown of the relationship of Calise and Morehouse.  And maybe it is – I honestly don’t know one way or the other when it comes right down to it – but what I do know for sure is that the sincerity & passion put into this tune really brings out some of the best of Batfarm.  Calise flexes genuine finesse on the microphone and invests herself confidently into every note & tone you’ll hear; musically, “Now That You’re Gone” has a wonderfully hypnotic & mesmerizing vibe to its movement & sound.  Ballad-esque perhaps, but don’t mistake that for anything close to boring – this tune is engaging on every level and becomes a thought-provoking & seriously sensory experience.  Lyrically, I also think it’s one of the strongest cuts on the record – and perhaps more importantly, one that I think a great many of you out there listening will be able to relate to, as heartbreaking as that fact may be.  Most of us have experience love & loss on some level or another, and “Now That You’re Gone” speaks strongly on behalf of the heartbroken, keeping us all engaged through the shattered prism of the twists life can take.

LISTEN to the opening grind of “Sorry, Not Sorry” will ya?  You can tell right from the drop here that this song is going to reach into real dynamics & bring out some BIG sound between them; which it definitely does.  Key moments like what’s happening in the background play every bit as much of a role as what you’ll hear up front…elements like how the piano/keys play a role in the melody give them a huge advantage – and believe me when I say, for the most part, they’re nearly hidden in comparison to a lot of what the average set of ears might notice at first, but that’s how much they stand out to the rest of us listening – for real, check out the way it all plays a role in strengthening the pre-chorus.  All-in-all, “Sorry, Not Sorry” becomes a powerfully dynamic song that’s designed to bring it to your speakers from the lefts to the rights…the drums and guitars of this cut provide a gripping intensity we can all latch onto.  I know I’ve already had incredible things to say about what Alexx brings to the microphone and I’m sure I’ve still got a bunch more to say – but I’ll be damned if she ain’t fully electrifying here on her performance throughout the clever loud/quiet dynamics inside of “Sorry, Not Sorry.”  Echoing the vibe of the music surrounding her & created in unity with Morehouse, she knows exactly when to add the extra venom or the right amount of melody to pull you right in close to listen at all times.  Like I’ve been saying from the get-go here, this is a record full of single-worthy potential and this song is a perfect example of the strengths you’ll find running through its length.  “Sorry, Not Sorry” is loaded with reasons to listen, brilliantly designed, and stunningly executed…definitely the kind of cut that gets noticed, even on a record with such incredible material all around it.

“Can’t Get It Right” again shines a bright light on the star-quality of Calise and the overall accessibility of Batfarm.  Listening to those hi-hats shuffle around and the quick snaps of the snare’s pace on this cut…I mean…they pour the energy into this tune from all angles and put in a real edgy sound into the guitars as well.  They’re like a version of Garbage here…only arguably with a lot more soul in the sound of Batfarm than the brooding cloud of Shirley Manson’s style hanging over them.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of both Garbage and what Manson brings to their music – but hearing a lot of the same ingredients here and a more lively voice up front to lead the way on “Can’t Get It Right” gives you an appreciation for how a blueprint like Garbage created can still shift into vibrant new directions.  WICKED tune with dynamics built to grab your attention; the guitars are brilliant, the rhythm section is right on-point, and the additional keys filling in the atmosphere add everything else you could possibly want in the music.  Vocally, Calise is on freakin’ FIRE here – she scorches through this track with surging intensity that couldn’t possibly be missed by anyone listening, switching between soulful tones and rampant alternative energy with remarkable precision.  “Can’t Get It Right” – for all its lyrics detailing just how many things go wrong at times, is like a freakish master-class on everything actually going right AF.

In my opinion, “Snake” is potentially the song on In The Belfry that might take the longest to connect to listeners on those first few spins through the EP – but after that’s out of the way and songs like immediately grab your attention like “Sorry, Not Sorry” or “Get Out” have established your interest, it’s songs like “Snake” that’ll keep ya coming back for the depth shown throughout this record.  LOVING the way that they’ve structure the slow-moves of the music on this track…it’s damn near Pink Floyd-ish if you’re listening to it closely, recalling the hollow, space-like sounds atmosphere that make songs like “Time” of “The Great Gig In The Sky” so spectacular to listen to.  That being said, it’s just one dimension of this tune that the guitars, bass, and drums really manage to create – there’s an entirely different aspect of this song that roars & soars to life through the chip on Calise’s shoulders and the soulfully spectacular way she sings this song.  You could argue there’s more uniqueness & craft applied to a song like “Snake” and you’d get no objections from me.  While I fully stand behind all of what I’ve said so far and think the songwriting & performances genuinely stand out on all of these songs – I also firmly believe that “Snake” reaches for a sound that’s a bit more artistically-inclined.  Sleek and slick, “Snake” moves slowly but highly stylistically, adding enormous punch to its most intense moments both on the microphone and in the music…it’s likely to be one of the cuts that holds up the longest as you repeat the record over the years to follow and the kind of song you’ll continually come back to & appreciate more.

“End Transmission” is a wonderful hybrid and an exceptional final song in this lineup to end the EP.  I think part-by-part, you’ll hear just how smart the songwriting is here…and I wouldn’t take points away from any of it.  That being said, I think it’s a highly expressive tune that shows you piece-by-piece that Batfarm can really build an entirely powerful payoff; the verses are great, the pre-chorus even greater – and the chorus of “End Transmission” hits the mark like Robin Hood splitting the arrow.  Key moments like the breakdown/bring-back make an impact on ya, and even the decision to end this last song on the most stripped-down & intimate moment you’ll likely find on In The Belfry weren’t just great moves in the performance/songwriting – they really get to the heart of the versatility in their malleable sound.  I’ll fully admit, the last song on any record done right, always has that chance of having the hooks or being the melody that’ll stick with you long after its done playing – but I think “End Transmission” earns that right through the merits of authentically powerful writing & execution.  There’s an element of a lighters-up moment here in the chorus of this last song, sure – but there’s also no denying the sheer strength of a really well-written moment in time that reaches its maximum potential, which is exactly what “End Transmission” does throughout its main hooks.  And I can speak from experience here…I’ve been listening to this Batfarm EP all week…and as per my point here, in between listens, out there doin’ my own thang like taking the dog for a walk or going to the grocery store or whatever, the chorus of this final track never seemed to leave me – nor did I want it to.  Great guitar tones throughout this whole record and “End Transmission” keeps that roll going strong to the end of the EP; it’s a genuine hybrid tune that borrows just as much from the 80’s & 90’s as it does what’s current out there post-2000.  Smart mix on the vocals, fantastic sound in the music all-around…”End Transmission” was another song I’d likely personally put right up there as one of the best on In The Belfry – but believe me when I say, there’s truly nothing at all to complain about here when it comes to this EP and what this dynamic duo have pulled off – any of these songs could be your favorite and you’d be totally justified in your choice.

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