Underlined Passages – Tandi My Dicafi – Album Review
A duo based out of Baltimore, Underlined Passages combines the talents of Michael Nestor on guitars & vocal duties and Jamaal Turner on the drums. With a brand-new album about to come out on September 15th of this year from the Mint 400 Records label, Tandi My Dicafi, Underlined Passages look to add more depth to their music and catalog with this third full album following their two previous records, the self-titled Underlined Passages and last year’s release of The Fantastic Quest. There’s a great energy between these two…I think you can hear that spark of unity in their sound immediately on “Feelings” the opening song on Tandi My Dicafi.
Vocalist Nestor brings out the indie-sound to what he sings through the verses of “Feelings” – but you’ll find the real magic of this first cut is really in the chorus. If you’re like myself and just jumping onto the Underlined Passages bandwagon right now, that smooth payoff that comes through the harmonies of the vocals on “Feelings” makes for a stellar first impression. Other than that, sounds like tight musicianship…really stoked on the precision hits from Turner and the lively snap he’s got on the snare & sounds of his cymbals. Guitars sound great and the writing of the song really moves fluidly. I had moments where I wasn’t 100% sure about Nestor in the verse…it’s a difficult tone to maintain and hold in the scheme of the melody, but I felt like for an opening tune expressing mixed emotions, the fragility and tension of that tone seemed to fit. I also think that progressively, he settles into this one more & more as it plays and then eventually, by the chorus of “Feelings” – Nestor’s right where he wants to be. Right in the ol’ pocket, as they say, sounding like he’s focused, driven and full of tones that match the energy & atmosphere of the music exactly as you’d hope to hear.
“Silverlake” as far as I can tell, is the lead-single from the record and out there & available for you to listen to now – so do that! Alright, alright…I’ll make it even easier for you to do that…click it below!
So there you have it…we’re all on the same page now. You’ve clicked play, you can hear that the guitars of “Silverlake” have all the hooks you need before the vocals even have a chance to get started. That stunning & shimmering riff of notes from Nestor definitely hits the spot. Real credit to Turner back there on the throne as well…dude is perfectly metronomic, but it’s more than that – he’s got the amazing tone & touch on those drums as well and really provides the backbone of the songs on Tandi My Dicafi. In just the skills of two men, they’ve damn near replicated something like the sound you’d imagine hearing in Minus The Bear…maybe Band Of Horses too…at the very least musically…I think the qualities and character in Nestor’s voice and the more pop-inclined twists on their indie-approach separates Underlined Passages enough to stand apart from being a copy. Essentially, “Silverlake” has enough similarities to music you love to pull you right in quickly, but still different enough to be unique.
“Your Bedroom” gets a prominent spot in the first three songs of the new album…and that’s a tougher call to make for sure. Anyone out there that’s ever listened to an album from The Temper Trap, James Iha, early stuff from Treble Charger or The Go Find know what I’m talking about…at times they absolutely hit the mark better than the rest out there at points on their records, other times in their more artistic endeavors they can often wander adrift a bit too far into their own world. I felt like “Your Bedroom” has a bit of that working against it…I like the majority of the music from the added synth-sounds to the sparkling guitars and crispness in the drums. This track reaches more into a post-punk vibe in the atmosphere and I dig that too. I think perhaps it was the almost too-smooth flow from verse to chorus in “Your Bedroom” that often left it feeling like it needed a bit more definition between parts. That being said, if you dig what you hear in “Your Bedroom,” you’ll definitely like the whole track…while it might not have those big, defined hooks…it could also be successfully argued that this song as a whole is its own serious moment in time. And really…if you listen to the words…there’s a really good chance that what we hear sounds the way that it does…because it IS a song about BEING in the moment, and wanting to stay locked safely within it. When you factor that in…”Your Bedroom” actually becomes a truly brilliant song on the record when examining it from concept to execution…whether that’s intentional or not, I’m not sure; whether or not people out there would pick up on that as I am…I’m even less sure – but it definitely became more interesting to listen to each time I heard it with this idea of what they might be going for here in mind. The evidence I think comes through the song’s ending in the final minute or so, where “Your Bedroom” becomes its most expressive and expansive in sound…like the aftermath of choosing the right path and having an all-new sense of reality as a result of the experience.
Loving the snare sound on “Bottlerocket” and really the whole atmosphere they’ve created here. Definitely some of the best vocals from Nestor…I was already feeling that way BEFORE the amazing magic he puts into the microphone around the 2:30 mark, just for the record. You can probably haul out the Band Of Horses comparison here once again, but that’s aces in my books – I really dig that band and “Bottlerocket” has a lot of similarities to them in the sound of this recording, the pace and the pensiveness…Underlined Passages really thrive in this style. In terms of sincerity, I think you feel this one a bit more than the rest on Tandi My Dicafi…to me, the verses of “Bottlerocket” stole the show handily; I like the chorus, but it’s really the surrounding magic that wins the war here. And I want it NOTED…like…what’s happening vocally at 2:30 is exactly what Nestor needs to really start exploring more and more…he’s audible perfection there for surely. Adding in a brilliant, brief moment of vocalizations that glide dreamily into the melody, “Bottlerocket” is hazy, hypnotic and captivating. There are massive amounts of emotion and expression in that good ol’ indie-style lyrically and “Bottlerocket” becomes a serious stunner as it plays…by the time it ends you’ll realize you stopped doing like…EVERYTHING else, just to listen to its every second.
Through the way that the rhythmic drums of Jamaal work in combination with the sparkling guitars from Nestor and his lively vocals – a lot of me thinks that the end result of “Thinking, On A Sunday” is a track they should definitely be considering as a single for this record. A real highlight for these two – “Thinking, On A Sunday” is completely vibrant from beginning to end, shining with indie-rock brilliance throughout its entire length. Probably the most balanced track I’ve heard in terms of its hook & pull to both its verse and chorus and one of the most complete ideas on Tandi My Dicafi – they’re right in the flow and absolutely nailing it here, tightly as possible. Sounding bright, bold and at their best – the energy of “Thinking, On A Sunday” is insightfully uplifting…by the end of this one you want to stand up, cheer and sing along right with it. Definitely an anthem for the last parts of your summer this year; excellent vocal-melody, effects and approach from Michael – he’s really going after this one and you can hear him lock right into the perfect tones to fit the music. From everything I’ve read about these guys, Underlined Passages have been getting out there on stage quite a bit this year…I have my money on “Thinking, On A Sunday” being a continual highlight in their set for both the audience AND the band.
The middle of this record really reveals their strengths time and again as everything seems to fall into place perfectly for Underlined Passages. “Ruthenia” continues their hot-streak with one of their most ambitious tracks songwriting-wise, delivering a song that has real depth and imagination to its sound. Full of spark, tone & energy, “Ruthenia” has enormously catchy guitars and equally attention-grabbing drums…the vocals are spot-on, harmony-laden, thick & rich in the mix. While it might have initially felt like they were warming up on the initial tracks like “Feelings” and “Silverlake” – by the time you’ve reached “Thinking, On A Sunday” and “Ruthenia” you can hear that Underlined Passages are ticking along like a well-oiled machine at this point. As far as the writing goes, there’s great definition in this song that has each part standing out along the way…smartly placed vocals that flow smoothly right into the mix, strong verse, strong chorus. The hooks might run a bit deeper here on “Ruthenia” than they even did on “Thinking, On A Sunday” – it’s a toss-up as to which of these two you might like best, but I can certainly vouch for the back-to-back placement of those two tracks being a real strength in the overall flow of Tandi My Dicafi.
Much like I felt about that magical moment at the 2:30 mark of “Bottlerocket,” the real power and pull to the sound of “Never Forever,” lies directly in the vocals without actual words. Alright – maybe it’s an ‘oh’ of some sort if you were to spell it out, but you get what I mean. Michael sounds stunning on “Never Forever” and might very well be delivering the highlight of the set as far as his singing is concerned. The dynamics and powerful transitions between gentle & mild to explosive and melodic really pack the punch the writing deserves as this duo goes on to conquer another ambitious track with passion, style and heart. That transition around the 1:45 mark on “Never Forever” absolutely KILLS me every time…Nestor nails the sincerity in the words perfectly as the music transforms the energy in behind him. The final minute paces itself out hypnotically, adding even more depth and punch through the booming kick-drum thump and crashing cymbals as it drifts victorious to the ending. Another seriously strong track on the new record, Underlined Passages is clearly making moves this time around and determined to make their mark.
Reflecting on life and love one last time, “The Days Were Golden My Friends” was definitely the perfect choice to end Tandi My Dicafi. A compelling, smooth & chilled-out acoustic-led tune, the music sounds tender & inviting, warm and accessible to all. The melody is sweet & hypnotic, as are the words; “The Days Were Golden My Friends” uses a sparing amount of instrumentation to maximum effect at the end of their new record, delivering another real satisfying and heartfelt song and a powerful final moment.
In grand-summation for ya, basically Underlined Passages have proven exactly why layout and track lineups matter so much. Tandi My Dicafi gets better and better from the moment it starts; it begins on solid ground but by the second half, it really shifts into another gear entirely. Lots of great ideas, lots of imagination, lots of that mixed-emotional good stuff that real indie music is infamous for – these guys have got a great thing going on; Tandi My Dicafi has definitely made me a fan of Underlined Passages. Most importantly, the songs come out sounding pure, passionate and written from a genuine place…I think that’s what connects to the people out there most and as a result of Michael and Jamaal’s efforts on their new record…I think it’s pretty safe to say they’ll be picking up a lot more new fans than just me.
Find out more from their official page at: http://www.underlineslove.com/