Grand Tradition – Your Wish – EP Review
Confession…I don’t often make a point of looking at how a band/artist tend to define their sound genre-wise until I’ve usually posted-up my thoughts as they’ve come to me naturally…even in those moments it’s more of a confirmation thing…finding out details after the event doesn’t ever change the words I’ve written right or wrong. Point of all this is…I DID do that when it came to the music of Grand Tradition – not because the answers were lost on me – it was more out of sheer curiosity as to what THEY came to as the final conclusion in describing their sound or fitting it into a particular genre. “An eclectic groove based sound” is what they went with…and quite honestly, I couldn’t agree more – you pick a genre or style aside from like, brutal metal-music and you’re likely to find an element of it in the mix of soulful & passionate ideas that line the writing on Grand Tradition’s new EP, Your Wish.
From rock, pop, R&B, light-reggae, progressive, funk, electro, soul…take your pick – Grand Tradition has found an incredible way of creating music where all these sounds come together in extraordinary and energetic ways…impressively unique really. Right from the beginning tones of the pepped-up sound in the music of the EP’s invitational-opener “The Bottle” and the complexity of the vocal-flow to the verse coming out with such seriously groovin’ & smooth movements – I instantly became interested in what would follow. First impressions-wise – “The Bottle” is everything you could possibly want an opening track to be in terms of it really creating that WANT to hear what comes next; it’s the kind of bright & lively sound executed with such stunning precision that you really start rooting for Grand Tradition immediately. The layers of the vocals between the female & male leads trading off and harmonizing with each other is truly a mesmerizing and captivating factor that makes “The Bottle” work as well as it does – but DON’T let yourself get so lost in the swirl of the melody that you miss the more-than-commendable instrumentation that drives this tune to a solid victory and brilliant start to their EP. A purely great combination of bass, guitars and drums with a sprinkle of keys making themselves known by adding subtle & effective pieces into the atmosphere of the music – this crew can play every bit as much as they can sing. With six players making up the core of Grand Tradition – the depth of talent is audibly clear…”The Bottle” utilizes each and every one of their strengths to produce a stunning result that really holds the attention through its dazzling movements and intense structure. As much as I might love any one element of this tune from Cat’s opening keyboard-line to the smooth guitar & vocals of Anthony that immediately follow…if I had to pin this one down for me personally I think I’d hand this one to the beautifully sung combined backing-vocals of Erin and Beth – these two sparkle & shine all throughout “The Bottle” and the breakdown just past the two-minute mark was a serious highlight not just on this first tune but on the entire EP…I love how they really take hold of the song from there and more or less break out of the background and into the spotlight with confidence – great ending to this first cut from Grand Tradition and an opening tune that absolutely hits the mark in terms of drawing us in to listen to the rest.
“Drop” is also quite impressive when you think about how far this song travels inside of only three-minutes in length. It leans more towards that light-reggae/light-funk sound…little bit of classic R&B ideas in here too – all once again assembled in a stunning progressive flow that has Grand Tradition exploring every corner, every nook & every cranny of this idea expertly. Great rhythm and pacing lines the performance…”Drop” is delivered a bit more theatrically than “The Bottle” was through the vocals – but I think the overall result sounds like they’re all confident and committed to bringing the ideas vibrantly to life. Extra credit in this one to the drums of Django who keeps the beat inventive and the hi-hat & cymbals sounding impressive, on-time and rhythmic throughout – and also bonus points to his partner in the rhythm section – Llew has real highlight moments on the bass here, fully in the groove throughout the verse/chorus and stunning in the solo/breakdown. To me, “Drop” is the kind of song whereby you can certainly appreciate what they’ve done here to bring their live sound to the record – but conversely, it also REALLY makes you want to see/hear them play this song live; I guarantee this would be a highlight moment to watch them play this one on stage.
With a more blues-funk approach to the sound of “Your Wish” – the band makes their collective presence and statements unified through this song of self-declaration and expression. Anthony continues to be completely impressive on the vocals and guitars…Django is reliable, crisp & clear as ever…the unsung hero of “Your Wish” is completely Cat on the keyboards – that’s the magic in the recipe here. Sometimes it definitely comes in handy being the son of a professional keyboard-player…I was raised on hearing how much this instrument can contribute to a composition more than any other when it comes right down to it – so Cat…know that I can HEAR you my friend…and I can hear what a difference it makes to the atmosphere of “Your Wish” to have these stunning but subtle additions included. What I LOVE about “Your Wish” and really the music of Grand Tradition overall is their fantastic use of both their players and the space surrounding them; more than most bands I’ve stumbled across over these past four years you can really hear that each of these players really know where the right spots to jump in are…and that’s impressive when you consider there are six musicians involved and that the music NEVER feels over-stuffed at all. The result is songs like “Your Wish” – where even when the idea is fully expanded by the end, everything we hear them do individually complements the next part coming, layered-in or assisting perfectly – everything sounds like ‘just the right amount of’ whatever part you choose to focus on. Credit to the stunning recording captured by Nick Brine (Teenage Fanclub/The Darkness) – but also serious credit to each of the players in this band for understanding the direction & goals of their sound and how to truly contribute to the brilliant execution in performance. Great hooks in the chorus of “Your Wish” really bring this one home; the verse was more than entertaining on its own – but this song really finds impressive gears heading into/right in the chorus; highlight moments for Anthony’s vocals heading towards that second minute and Erin & Beth are breathtaking as the song swells towards the third-minute.
Lyrically, I loved “Forget About It” and the beautiful sentiments expressed in an upbeat melancholy vibe that’s both as bright as it is thought-provoking. It’s also a return to the lighter-side melody/music-wise throughout much of this fourth track on the Your Wish EP…I feel like this kind of sound on “Forget About It” and previously on “The Bottle” work really well for Grand Tradition. Lyrically they’ve proven they can still tackle tough concepts/themes and powerful emotion in impressively entertaining ways throughout the record – but I felt like “Forget About It” really hit true mark of sincerity. As they hit the 2.5 minute-mark they hit the sweetest of breakdowns…almost a small reprieve of sorts, in effort to collect themselves and deliver the final chorus run-throughs beautifully. I feel like I should have more to say about this one…but it all comes down to love, love, love what I heard here, just expressed in different sets of alpha-characters cleverly disguised as witty sentences that may/may-not say anything other than I purely just love “Forget About It.” I think they absolutely nail the vocals here on this tune…great energy between Anthony, Beth and Erin in the harmonies/vocals and the relationship between the rhythm section of Llew and Django continues to provide a completely strong setting for Cat to join in with smart keyboard additions and Anthony’s sweet guitar tones. “Forget About It” is as fun as it is smart & sweet – I’ve got nothing but love for the performance and writing on this tune.
Of all the tracks for me, I was least attached to “In My Veins” at first – though I’d still give this a supportive thumbs-up for ambition, performance and execution. My just be a little bit too much of a mid-late 80’s vibe that ran through the sound of “In My Veins” – at least parts of it to be fair – Grand Tradition has an innate method of making sure they cover a vast amount of sound and really explore their ideas. I did also feel like the breakdown/bring-back around the three-minute mark really pulled off a successful modern-day addition to the overall throwback sound of this final track. Anthony…man…I gotta say – this guy has not ONCE taken it easy on himself as a vocalist; not only are the parts he plays on guitar intricate and demanding on their own, but so is the way he structures his vocals in a verse quite often. “In My Veins” does bring out some of the best from him personally with an inspired performance accented perfectly with the backing vocals of Erin and Beth & beat from Django. There’s rhythm…there’s groove…I think the hooks are a bit less accessible than perhaps other tunes on the record…but I also think that “In My Veins” makes up for it with clever transitions and multiple parts that individually all make their own impact. Really feel like they nailed that spot at three-minutes and brought this track to a decided victory with a quick solo from Cat sending us into space at the end; and I’d certainly never argue that what I’ve heard throughout this final song would no doubt appeal to many…they bring a bit of extra funk to this final cut that I think would make an impact with a ton of listeners out there. For me – it was that final switch at the end of “In My Veins” from three-minutes onward that was my eventual access point into the rest of this tune; it might not have been my favorite from the EP – but let’s face it, they’ve put together some stiff competition for themselves when comparing these tracks to each other! So credit where credit is due – “In My Veins” is certainly performed with as much enthusiasm, focus and passion as every other track on the record – an EP lined with innovative ideas and ambition played confidently through all five songs – and I LOVE the sound of that!
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