Round About – Inner Voices And Curious Choices – Album Review
“Bittersweet” indeed! After reading about the adventures of Round About, I can only imagine that’s the conclusion they’ve come to in putting out this new album, as documented on their social-media pages. On the one hand – BRAND-NEW music! Heck YEAH that’s always worth being excited about – especially if it sounds as good as these guys do. On the other hand, it’s the official end of an era with their one of their founding members in Dave Mehring (Bass) making a change in locations & departing the band “for work and family reasons, not Behind The Music ones” – and presumably, their drummer Phil Raino also becoming a casualty of the situation with Round About shrinking to a two-piece from here on in, with the talents of Patrick Garrity (Vocals, Rhythm Guitar) and Aaron Lowenberger (Lead Guitar) carrying on the Round About name from here. These guys know the internet is a thing, yes? Do we REALLY have to close this chapter permanently based only on physical locations these days in the modern era we live in?
Sadly that’s not my decision to make…all I can do is confirm that these dudes made real magic together. They’re not GONE…they still exist – don’t be bummed this era is over, be thankful it happened, you dig? The music lives on & the full-version of the band went out on material they should be sincerely proud of.
In fact, I’d be mighty shocked if the vast majority of the people out there had a listen to the opening track on Inner Voices And Curious Choices, called “The Blind Lead The Blind,” and not feel immediately hooked. These dudes get this record rockin’ & rollin’ quickly with meaty rhythms and grooves that are as well thought-out in their structure & design as they are entertaining from start to finish. They’ve got a great energy united together, and there’s no denying that as this catchy cut comes at ya – from the overall intensity & melody combined, to the stellar vocals from Patrick, to the stunning hooks they’ve tapped into & the lyrical depth this band possesses – “The Blind Lead The Blind” is a brilliant representation of what this band was capable of together & a fantastic gateway into their latest album. Incidentally, I’m not the only one that has noticed this – “The Blind Lead The Blind” became the lead-single out there in advance of the official release of Inner Voices And Curious Choices, and rightly so. If we’re talking about enticing sound, have a listen to the opening of this record to get an idea of what the real standard should be – I was impressed with the musicianship, vocals, and verses to begin with, but there’s no doubt whatsoever that they uncovered something savagely special & highly memorable with the hooks they’ve written into the chorus. Add in the wicked guitar solo you’ll hear from Aaron along the way, a clever breakdown to ensure the bring-back & final run through of the chorus stands out for the finale, and voila – you’ve got everything you wanna hear, right here in this first stellar cut. Round About leaves you wanting absolutely nothing more as they tear into their final album as a band united.
They had me fooled for a moment there. As “Better With Time” began, I thought to myself – how on earth did Patrick manage to sound so different on this track than he did on the first one? It seemed like it was improbable to say the very least…there’s a river of difference that flows in between the two sounds in the vocals on the initial two cuts, and as it turns out, that IS indeed because it’s coming from two different dudes. Dave takes over the lead vocals for “Better With Time,” bringing an immediate brightness to the energy & vibe as the music follows his upbeat demeanor & the set-list on Inner Voices And Curious Choices starts to morph and transition for the first of many instances throughout the lineup. A really well-written tune that explores all-things-time and our relationship to it, with a truly grounded perspective to go with its dreamy Pop/Rock sound – this band has an exceptional way with words, and a wealth of talent to draw from in that regard. Dave taking the lead here becomes an even more special moment when considering their story now…like I said, this whole album was a really great note for the full band to go out on if that indeed remains the case – but I suspect that a bunch of veterans of the scene like this probably look back on all this and get the jones to make music together again, no matter how far apart they become location-wise. Why? Because you listen to moments like this, and they DO get “Better With Time” – and the memories of the good times turn them into great ones as the years pass by. I’ve got my fingers crossed here – they sound like they’re having so much FUN in playing this song that it’s hard to imagine a world where they wouldn’t want to somehow find their way back to it. Tons of personality in this cut, tons of universal appeal and flashy catchiness in the way they play it – but it’s also loaded with substance and a very real, humble & honest perspective that’s beautifully objective.
They’re kind of like a jazzier version of Minus The Bear on “Menagerie” – and I dig that. One of those innuendo-laden tunes, where our own interpretation tends to reveal a whole lot more about US than it does them, you following me? I’ve gotta watch myself here in terms of projection…like…I THINK I have a good idea of what “Menagerie” is about…and if my theory is correct, this is actually quite the damn dirty little ditty, ain’t it? Well…I’m HERE FOR IT. No joke folks, it’s another masterfully well-crafted cut – on a writing-level alone, I’m literally engrossed in this story every time this song comes on, and the way they’ve played it so brilliantly just makes the experience that much better. This is HOT STUFF y’all…from the steamy storyline this song has, to the way the music packs the entertainment into your speakers, if I were Round About, I’d be mighty inclined to be puttin’ this out there as a single. Sure, it’s got a message at its core that might not be so…hmm…mainstream in the sense like, it’d be weird to hear “Menagerie” while standing in a lineup at the bank & all…but it’s written to mask its theme so cleverly that it’s really up to YOU to fill in the rest of the blanks as you listen – so maybe hearing this on the radio ain’t that far of a stretch…maybe they could get away with it. Others have pulled it off before – no reason that Round About couldn’t beat the odds in that regard too right? Again, when a song sounds as spectacular as this one does, it’s hard to argue that they couldn’t; “Menagerie” is an all-out perfect combination of smart songwriting and flawless execution in the musicianship/vocals, full-stop. Bonus points for Phil’s drums being so stylistic & crisp in his precision…more bonus points for the killer guitar riffs that gets this track movin’ in all the right directions from the moment it kicks-in & the otherworldly solo that eventually follows…I felt like this was an absolutely exceptional track on all fronts, and that it’s equally accessible.
Hey…you know something Round About? This Patrick guy is pretty good! Lol – obviously I’m kidding & obviously they know – but do YOU? When you hear a song like “A Single Kiss” I’d imagine any remaining holdouts will finally get it…this dude writes tunes that as are compelling for the words as they are entertaining through the music you’ll find. Enlisting the assistance of Michael Clem on the harmonica was a great move as well…he brings that extra touch of downhome flavor to the atmosphere as you listen, and fits into “A Single Kiss” seamlessly as the band takes on a more delicate Folk-style vibe. There is…so much to love about this track that it’s hard to know where to begin really…I just think it’s one of those quaint, pleasant, and memorable experiences that’s destined to be enjoyed by all who listen. If you’re a fan of say…someone like an artist like Ben Gibbard, the thought he puts into his words, and the crystal clear endearing sincerity that comes with the music he makes, you’ll completely love a song like “A Single Kiss” without question. With a more dialed-back & mellow sound, you’ll be surprised by how quickly this track is actually “moving on” as it plays…it’s got a faster pace than it’ll appear to have, and that’s a spectacular part of the magic at work in this song. I’ve got nothing but love for the way Garrity writes a tune, and I think this whole band surrounding him completely nail it when it comes to bringing out the inherent sweetness of a track like this straight to the surface of our speakers, shining for all to hear. While the storyline of “A Single Kiss” has more emotional complexity to be found within its layers, the music remains inviting, warm and welcoming to the nth degree – this band knows exactly how to get you listening, but more importantly, KEEP you listening through quality musicianship and songwriting.
There really ain’t too many cracks in this band’s armor y’all, that I can tell ya. I’ve got a moment or two here & there with Dave’s vocals on his second appearance to lead “In Between” – but for the vast majority, he’s right on the money. Even when I’d argue he colors a bit outside of the lines, it’s more of a stylistic choice than it is missing the mark…he’s kind of got a Matthew Sweet sound goin’ on as he sings this song. Musically and writing-wise, “In Between” is an all-star level stand-out – it’d be impossible to miss the personality of this cut leaping outta your speakers and the remarkably innovative way they’ve put this tune together. One of those tracks that’ll definitely have you wondering whether or not you loved the verse more than the chorus…which I think is probably gonna be the case for most of us, those hooks are just too awesome to ignore…but all-around, it’s a cut that comes out with every intention of entertaining you from its quirky creative roots, to its colorfully explosive & expanded sound at its fullest. I’m not here to argue that “In Between” is going to be everyone’s jam in the same way that I think the universal accessibility of the first four cuts on Inner Voices And Curious Choices would likely be – but I have the feeling that, for those of us that DO dig on the extra amped-up energy to be found in this track, you’ll be every bit as addicted to it as I became. Because like…c’mon…not ONLY were you loving the way this song started out, but once that guitar comes in around the fifty-five second mark, it’s like…I mean…that’s GOOD GAME from there on, ain’t it? I’ll admit…I might not have personally felt like the chorus of this track really pushed the song to the next-level as you’d typically expect to find – but there’s not a doubt in my mind that everything else DOES…the personality in this one cut alone is worth the full price of admission y’all. They’ve got enough electricity in the air to power your whole village for a year – and the way they break this track down to circle back to the way it began…good lordy…chef’s kiss folks.
So…chances are, you can probably tell where that leaves them for this next track…up against nearly impossible odds. I know, I know…you’ll listen to “Course Correction” and probably feel like it’s still a quality tune, because it is…I ain’t disputing that. I’m just saying that anything coming after “In Between” would have an extra tough time standing out as strong as it potentially could, and given the fact that the band goes for a softer moment with “Course Correction,” in my opinion, makes it even harder for this cut to grab ya as it probably should. Writing & execution-wise, these guys are clearly not gonna let ya down…you essentially KNOW that as a FACT by the time you’ve finished track three on an album like this – and I truly feel that remains to be true here on “Course Correction.” It’s a good song…I’m not 100% sure it’s as great as the rest of the lineup has been so far to this point, but I certainly have no objections to listening to this track or any other on this record. Y’all and I get into this battle sometimes…I mean – it ain’t MY fault that they’ve cranked out five incredible tunes prior to “Course Correction” is it? I’m not even saying this one ISN’T incredible in its own way too – I genuinely think that it IS – but you get what I mean…it’s every bit as much or more on Round About than it is on ME dear readers, dear friends. I maintain that any song would have found this spot in the set-list to be the toughest one to fill, and quite honestly, I think they made a smart move by going low-key with “Course Correction” rather than try to compete with the cut prior energy-wise, and it allows them the opportunity to switch it up even more for this second half of Inner Voices And Curious Choices. It’s got a contemplative & thought-provoking vibe to its sound and to the lyrics you’ll find…the ever-present kickass guitar-solo…believe me when I say, it’s not a case of “Course Correction” not having enough to keep ya entertained, it’s simply a matter of being in a position of following a song that’s gonna stand out to everyone immediately. “Course Correction” is one of those songs you tend to seek out when you’re in more of a specific & introspective type of mood…the kind of cut you can depend on to add strength to the lineup, and that we build our own attachments to over time. Those first spins through the album will have this track struggling a bit more than the others in the fight for your attention, but I’m confident it’ll win it over time as you listen.
“Course Correction” does provide that break & reset for Round About to be able to start their way towards the finale of their new album, and that’s crucial too – you can hear the way it helps assist in making a Rock/Reggae cut like “Sending Out Signals” stand out even stronger. All-in-all, I felt like this was one of the most complete & professional tracks on Round About’s latest record – it’s a freakin’ great tune. Aaron takes over on the vocals here and puts in the better of two impressive performances on the mic that you’ll hear on this record – and you know how attached I already felt to him leading the way on “Menagerie” earlier on…dude’s got an impressive win streak goin’ on when he’s at the helm. Think of it this way folks…I’m pretty resistant to Reggae vibes, and this cut’s got plenty…and I’m loving every ticking second of this track, straight-up. Aaron puts in a great performance…no doubt about that – but I gotta give the man points for the way he transitions into the melody of the chorus here – that’s the magic in action, right there, plain as day. Working with a mysterious & curious vibe, “Sending Out Signals” roams through a catchy set of in-the-pocket grooves that come very naturally to this band, and they get the complete maximum results outta every moment you’ll hear. The verses are spot-on, the chorus is 100% magnificent…the bridge is still a bridge, but I appreciate it being there all the same…and the solo on this cut could very well be my favorite of the bunch. It’s stylistically slick, played with professionalism & the precision this band is synonymous with…y’ain’t gonna find me complaining about “Sending Out Signals.”
Where their multiple talents really pay off for them, is on “Try As You Might” towards the end of the album – Round About is mesmerizing on this cut. Another lyrical standout for sure, and a track that makes several iterations of its own evolution as it plays on – this is an ambitious song that moves a heck of a long way from its isolated opening to its vibrant finale. Melody on-high throughout this entire track, that’s always gonna work for me…add in a sprinkle of melancholy, and I’m sold…which they have, perfectly…”Try As You Might” is both a downtrodden & authentically triumphant tune, all in one. It’s a song that examines how critical we can be in the choices we make and our interpretation of life around us…we could “walk on the beach, or keep counting the grains of sand,” as they say. “Try As We Might” – life is still what we choose to make of it, and they illustrate that point brilliantly within this tune. One of my favorite performances from Patrick, and another jaw-dropping solo in the instrumentation via Aaron’s axemanship…for a slow jam, they’re making a huge case for this cut being a single in my opinion. There’s an epicness to this track that no other track on the record can rival in terms of the journey we take with the rise & fall of its powerfully gripping dynamics – and Round About proves that whether they’re mellowed-out & melancholy, or amped-up & inspired, they come out shining & thriving. Mark Bower’s second appearance on this album really stands out as well…the organ is an essential part of the vibe you’ll feel flow through “Try As You Might” – and hearing this song BURST OPEN into such a spectacular radiance…I am tellin’ ya folks…it’s genuinely something to behold, and a massive highlight.
Going the slow-route after the heights of “Try As You Might” works out extremely well for Round About this time around, and provides us with an immaculately intimate final track in “The Most Important Thing” to conclude their new album. Ending on the best advice you’re gonna hear this year – “love’s the most important thing we do” – I couldn’t agree more…and I’m positive there’s a whole bunch of hearts & minds that will feel exactly the same. “The Most Important Thing” is endlessly endearing…from the gentle & delicate melody in Patrick’s whispery vocals, to the sweetened mellow rhythm & acoustic-based groove they’re humbly rockin’ with…this is what a conclusive ending sounds like folks, take notes. “Be careful of the gospel that you choose” certainly ain’t advice to be ignored either – you’ll find the lyrics of Round About to be brilliantly objective, observant, and insightful all throughout this entire album, and they end Inner Voices And Curious Choices with some of what’s arguably their very best in that respect. What I’m completely sure of, is that they’ve got a real gem in the combination of dreamy sound and grounded lyricism of “The Most Important Thing” – for as tender as it appears to be, it’s quite likely going to be one of the songs that makes the biggest & most memorable impacts on listeners outta the lineup. From the content of the empowering lyricism, and the irresistibly special sound they create to go along with it, Round About puts in a spellbinding performance on their last track, giving their final record as a full band the sweet send-off they all deserved, with a finale guaranteed to satisfy everyone.
Find out more about Round About from their official website at: https://www.roundaboutrocks.com