Forest City & Friends – Sol – EP Review
Feels like it’s been forever since we last had Forest City & Friends on our pages, when in fact it was just a couple years back…they’re basically right on time with a new release, crankin’ out material at a steady rate that no one, including me, should really complain about given the quality of tunes this band creates. Great to have’em back in action – they’ve got a brand-new EP called Sol with four tasty cuts on it for ya.
Boasting a lineup of eight players in Forest City and a couple of Friends to fill out the sound – I gotta give a real shout-out to the crisp snap of the snare at the very beginning as drummer Paul Gauer leads the way into “Animal Crackers” as Sol begins. Oddly enough, they’ll spend more time convincing you to “taste the fruit of life” and that WE are in fact, the “Animal Crackers” on the inside of the box – from what I’m picking up here, it’s more or less an anthem/call to recognize what side of the cage you’re really on & get out there to live a lil’ bit. They take on technology & our self-imposed insanity…lyrically it’s got a unique palette of words goin’ on and strong hooks fueling its chorus that deliver the payload for the vocals. Rockin’ with a Progressive sound in the shortest timeframe on their new record, chances are you can bet to find “Animal Crackers” likely promoted as the lead single as a result…the guitars are stellar and have gripping hooks of their own, the vocals have serious personality and tone that’ll pull people in…and those bass-lines should not be ignored either! I dig it…no doubt about that – I love hearing these guys stop, pivot, shift, and burst back into that second verse – it’s one of my favorite moments on any of the cuts from this EP – a real highlight for hearing how Forest City & Friends can seize their power & momentum and use it to their advantage. I’m addicted to the sound of that snare – it’s the best thing I’ve heard this side of “Heterosexual Man” by The Odds, or “Supersatellite” by Our Lady Peace…it’s not the normal draw as the main feature of a song, but I tell ya, there’s real alluring sound in that steady pop from Paul that packs in all the right punch into this song to guide it to success. Like a great team in any capacity, they quickly get everyone involved and their new EP flowing with the right energy – of the four tracks on the Sol EP, there’s no question they chose the right one to start it up.
When was the last time you heard a song with a hook built outta “roman numeral number III?” I’m guessing it’s probably been at least a while…and have no fear – Forest City & Friends are here to help resolve that on “My Bird.” The last thing I’m gonna pretend to do is claim that I can jump from branch to branch in my thought-process quickly enough to keep up with singer Pete Giordano and the words he writes – but I sure do like the sound of the way he sings’em! Not ONLY him, but the addition of Sheridan in the background proves to be absolutely essential…it was a stellar combination on the opening track “Animal Crackers,” and I felt like you get an even better dose of what makes them sound great together on “My Bird” to follow. Key additions like the flute in the mix really go a long way…just like the sax did on the opening track – both of which are played by Tom Archer with stellar melody and real passion on display. There’s such a brilliantly natural-yet-crafted sound to this track…the kind of song that possesses the same magic of hearing it happen for the first time right there in the room with Forest City & Friends, yet contains such skill and clever structuring that you’d know it would take forever just to even rehearse this tune, never-mind getting it refined to the shimmering, sparkling results you hear on this EP of theirs. “My Bird” is audibly alive…from the ambient nature sounds that bookend the song, to the way the entire band ends up jammin’ it out together so impressively locked right into this moment in time – I gotta admit…this track grew on me so freakin’ quickly. On that first spin, as the quaint beginning started up, I thought to myself…”right on…this should be a nice pleasant experience” – and what can I say? I’m glad it was a whole lot heckin’ MORE than just merely that. Listening to the piano notes from their friend Kris ring out right before the band snaps into place around 1:05 mark is another serious treat for the ol’ ears…I love it when a band I truly dig listening to continues to thrive in what they create. As they shift into the melody-driven hooks around the two-minute mark, it was essentially good-game for me from there – I was beyond convinced that every single time I spun my way through “My Bird” I’d be that much more addicted to it…and that’s certainly proven to be true. Pete sings the living daylights outta this song, and he deserves real credit for being able to match the personality of the music from the mic.
It’s still Rock yes…but with “Unstoppable Gun,” they’re nearly riding that fine-line towards Disco with the brightness of this beat and bounce in its melody…at least as it begins. That’s no knock against’em – as far as my ears are concerned, the light-funk infusion they add to this track through Greg’s bass and Paul’s drums is wildly addictive, and instantly puts this track on a path to connect to every person within earshot. Crunchy guitar solo for ya to enjoy past the mid-section…presumably comin’ from Chris Muccino, who takes on several roles from the writing to the musicianship on this record – it might also be Bill Bourassa, who plays both acoustic & electric on the Sol EP too, I’m not sure who does what, but I like what I hear! And the sax from Tom once again becomes a huge standout element of this third track as well…that dude’s clearly a multi-talented musician for sure. These dudes all have authentic chops that no musician out there who has ever held an instrument could possibly miss – it’s something you can hear in the way they play their individual parts, and the results in what you hear from them all combined…tracks as versatile, innovative, and outright imaginative as “Unstoppable Gun” are truly no small achievement…these are tough tunes to put together, and they make it seem effortless to them. Complexity comes naturally to this skillful band – and LISTEN to the effect that has on these Progressively-based tunes! No joke…the fact that this band is as tight as they are and as skilled as they are, leads what should be more of challenge to people’s ears into incredibly accessible terrain that all can enjoy – you follow me? As in, you don’t HAVE to be a musician, you don’t HAVE to even be a fan of Progressive styles of music – Forest City & Friends make it easy on everyone by executing like the professionals they are…you don’t even really need typical hooks at all when you play as great as they do. The musicianship…the commitment…the dedication to the craft…the writing…these are the elements that become the REAL hooks above anything else – the fact that it all sounds as stellar as it does is pretty much a bonus if you ask me. Paul’s drums are an endless highlight to my ears…I know I’ve said it, but the dude’s just got the MAGIC and I’d have to wager a guess that anyone out there that really likes to hear their drums played loud & proud in the music they listen to is absolutely gonna love what this guy brings to the throne. All-in-all, the balance is staggering…everything really kind of gets its own significant moment in the spotlight if you’re really paying attention, and the skills are abundant from the lefts to the rights. For as Progressive as these tunes are…don’t get me wrong, I love the genre – I’m simply saying that it’s completely rare to hear such organic accessibility when there are so many twists & turns in a song and it’s that much tougher to sing along with than anything inside the ol’ Top-40 – people are going to be extraordinary surprised and equally pleased with what they find on the Sol EP.
Where I think being a real fan of Progressive Rock will come in the most handy, is definitely on the final track, “Seasons/Sol” – which is nearly eight & a half-minutes in length. No question that’s a tall ask of the everyday listener, but that’s what Prog-based tunes has been from the moment it first popped into the music-scene long ago, and will continue to remain that way long after we’re all worm-food. What I don’t think, is that ANY artist or band in the history of music has ever created a song over seven minutes with the expectation it’s gonna go out there and dominate the radio-waves anyway – you make songs like “Seasons/Sol” out of the pure love of the craft, out of genuine interest – and because you freakin’ CAN! You know how many bands out there would have to spend years & years practicing “Seasons/Sol” just to get it right ONCE? I’ll tell ya the straight truth – we’d be here until next year if I listed them all – and that’s a large part of what makes Forest City & Friends as special as they are…put as simply & plain as day, they can DO things that other bands never could and certainly wouldn’t dare to even attempt. I’m not here to be the guy that’s gonna tell ya “Seasons/Sol” is gonna be THE cut on the Sol EP for everyone – that’s not the way I see it, and to be completely fair to the band, that’s exactly what I’ve been saying…you make a song like this more for the players involved than anyone else, and that’s OKAY! The realest of the real out there…the folks that have held onto an instrument themselves or plugged in & play LIVE…they’ll get it…and in this kind of scenario, that’s who you’re really playing for beyond the band…the bread & butter audience of a song as intricate, layered, and involved as “Seasons/Sol” are the actual musicians out there. Chances are the rest of the people listening are likely taken aback slightly by just how much a track like “Seasons/Sol” will transition & morph along the way and give them so precious little they could sing along with…but they might just have to sit this one out – not every song is gonna be for everyone, and that too is okay. I know I appreciate what I’m hearing with every hole I’ve got in my face, so they can take that to heart – I remain a massive fan of the innovative tunes Forest City & Friends create, and songs like “Seasons/Sol” are a true testament to what they can achieve, together. It IS nearly eight & a half-minutes long…we’re all bound to have our favorite moments and really notice where the band is most locked into the moment as it plays…there’s a rise/fall at work here that delivers a bit of space between significant highlights, but it’s no less of an imaginative & well-executed cut all the same. Heck…at the length it reaches, clearly the argument is that there IS more to be found here…and listening to Tom LIGHT UP the sax on the way into the fourth minute IS completely worth whatever the price of your admission to this has been…that moment in this final cut alone should be more than enough to keep y’all comin’ back for subsequent spins through the Sol EP. They’ve done themselves proud with this record…it’s a smorgasbord of versatile sound, gripping musicianship, and stellar ideas.
The Sol EP arrives online officially this April 12th – but as of today, as in right NOW at this very moment, you can find out how to get yourself an advance copy straight from their main website – find out more about Forest City & Friends right here: http://www.forestcityandfriends.com
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