Western Estates – Me First – EP Review
This excites me greatly. Damn! What a GREAT day for music it’s been here at the homepage already today! I might be pushing my luck if I go much further past this new EP from Western Estates – incredibly strong ideas with a beautiful indie-edge in sound like these will ALWAYS have a spot high-up on my playlist.
But I’ll tell you this sincerely right now…regardless of what my own personal taste is…if I was just to put on my talent-scout cap and pass judgment on whether or not this band could potentially go on to dominate the entire universe – I’d double down on that bet right now. There is something absolutely beautiful, raw and fantastic started here on the Me First EP from Western Estates…track after track, experience after experience – there is real magic you can absolutely hear on this record.
The alternative-era guitars that come storming out on “You First” absolutely had me instantly. Kind of like what I’d imagine a female-led Built To Spill might sound like…the guitars are so damn raw but so damn incredible to listen to – the beat alongside it pounds out with authority and the vocals reveal their exquisite & exotic textures right away on this short minute-plus song leading into the EP. “You First” manages to establish more impact within the inside of its short-length than most songs built radio-sized at the usual three & a half. You can hear the uniqueness and the passion instantly in the performance.
But where I became convinced beyond all doubt about just how extraordinary and special what I was listening to came through the next tune, “White Knuckles.” And here’s where the difference comes in for me, big-time. You can absolutely hear the 90’s influence on a cut like this…I’d be shocked to find out that the four-members of Western Estates weren’t huge fans of like, Pavement & Throwing Muses…the guitars are sprawling with sound and the atmosphere in the vocal-mix is haunting. That being said…the REAL difference…what’s going to honestly set this crew apart from the rest lies within both their songwriting AND the extraordinary and beautiful sound of Laura Klein’s voice. What she has written and created here…I mean…I almost have no words to describe it…what she’s doing in the chorus and the bending tones of her soaring vocals will stick with me for LIFE. I could go easily a decade from here and I’ll be lucky if I’m to hear a part in a song written so damn strongly that it might rival this incredible melody and idea that Klein is rocking here. LOVED the guitars that take this tune out to the end…hence the Pavement reference…and the Throwing Muses comparison coming from the sheer genius, texture, tone and expression you hear in Klein’s voice rivaling the uniqueness and beauty you hear in Kristin Hersh. The writing of “White Knuckles” as a song is absolutely perfect, has multiple twists and strong transitions, great build and a beautiful evolution…one of the true highlights of my entire year.
And I’ll be straight-up honest with you…at this point already on the EP only having finished song number two and a quick intro-track – I was 100% positive that this band would go on to completely nail the rest of this record with ease. This band absolutely knows their sound…it might still be a new project – but this is one hell of a confident crew that really OWN their style, and it’s honestly refreshing to hear a band with this much passion in their approach.
Klein comes out sounding nearly like Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries as “One And Done” begins – but that’s certainly not a problem for my ears. The entire song really does have that gentle approach and vibe that made The Cranberries a worldwide sensation and truly feels equally special and magical to listen to. Especially around the spot just prior to the two-minute mark…things start to shift slightly with the addition of violin sounds creeping into the music…The Cranberries-esque sound is slowly dropped in favor of a more raw indie-rock energy and “One And Done” unfolds into quite the adventure by the end.
Now again…regardless of whether or not you’d argue that the hooks of “To Get Her” might be harder to get to in a sort of Placebo-esque kind of way…I’d challenge you to listen to what Klein is doing here and then try to convince me that there’s not a real leader here. She has a real gift and an extraordinary voice that could truly carry the weight of this entire band were it required; thankfully, it’s not – she has an entire band full of dudes she can rely on. Glenn Furst, Matt Cranmer and Jarrod Ruby all demonstrate serious ingenuity and a high-proficiency in their instrumentation while still sounding astoundingly indie in the production on this record. I like the darker approach to “To Get Her” overall – I think this works just as strongly for them and still fits cohesively inside this EP. Highlight guitar tones on “To Get Her” provide some brightness in combination with the rising/falling sounds of the bass as the drums pound away – and right around the two-thirty mark, Laura puts her own stamp strongly on this tune as she raises up her performance to match the increasing energy in the evolution of the songwriting & performance. The ending is compellingly strong throughout the final minute; you’ve gotta appreciate where you are from where you’ve come and “To Get Her” ends up being one hell of a wicked journey.
After I took in the final track “Absentee” I just kind of sat here speechless before beginning a rampant ravaging of repetition over the next several days on this record. I sat for a moment and truly just appreciated at how amazing this entire band sounded over the course of Me First…I ask you dear readers, dear friends – what is not to LOVE about this band? The floating chorus of “Absentee” is gorgeous…the vocals are mixed beautifully into the swirl of the music so that each and every element from drums to bass, guitar & vocals all get their equal cut in the strength of what we hear. If it wasn’t for “White Knuckles” – this might have very well ended up being my favorite cut on this tune…the lyrics are awesome on “Absentee” and the performance is so immaculately inspired…this entire band should be nothing but proud of themselves for what they’ve achieved on Me First. The very ending of “Absentee” and Laura’s vocals taking on one last unique pattern proved once again that the multiple layers of ideas inside of each of these indie melodies are done with a true professional clarity in the ambition of their sound.
Can I express ONE beef with this band? As you know…our reader-voting for our Best New Sound of 2016 will begin in December…and well…my list was already TIGHT ENOUGH as it WAS. Picking ten of my absolute favorites was already tougher than it’s ever been this year…and now THIS happens. The ME FIRST EP happens. Who just drops like, one of the best EP’s of the year in like, November? Who DOES that? Every bit of this record deserves to be on that list this year…I fully believe that I’ve heard the beginnings of something seriously incredible starting in this band…Western Estates has completely won me over – this EP is brilliant.
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