Wingspeak – College St.

 Wingspeak – College St.

Wingspeak – College St. – EP Review

The upbeat vibe & carefree sound of Wingspeak reminds me a lot of one of our favorite names around these pages of ours…Jana Pochop…or her band as onetwothreescream…you’ll get what I’m talkin’ about once you have a listen to the College St. EP.  There’s a bunch of things I dig here in this lineup of five songs…and still a lot of room to grow as well.  To be fair to Wingspeak, you can read on her social media pages that these songs were written between 2013-2019, and she’s mentioned how she’s changed a lot over the years since then…so…chances are, we can expect a natural evolution to the next songs we’ll hear from this band – but as it stands, there’s no doubt this is a decent start towards a brighter future.

Alright…so!  I can certainly confirm that I love the sunshine in the sound of the opening track “Center Stage” – that’s a melody bound to attract a lot of attention, and in general, it starts the College St. EP out with a beautifully inviting energy that people will have no problem getting into.  I have my moments here & there with the lyricism…some of it works well & has cleverness to it, some of it borrows from lines I’ve heard in a million other songs…I really like the main hooks and the uniqueness of the “exit row behind the curtains” line, or the reference to how her “script is missing” as she transitions into the chorus – that’s all good stuff.  It’s lines like the “I’m ready to fly” part that I could do without…we’ve all been there, we’ve all done that…like I said, we’ve literally all heard about a hundred songs that have a similar line to a degree, and there’s not a doubt in my mind that there’s a better approach to saying what you really mean.  The ONLY reason I’m cool with it all in this particular scenario is because the project itself is called Wingspeak…so there’s an aviation tie-in that makes it a BIT more appropriate – but you get what I mean, and I’m sure that our hero of the story here does as well – I think there’s more uniqueness to be explored in what she wants to communicate and words that will belong more to her directly in order to do that.  I’m always going to advocate on behalf of finding your voice in every aspect – that’s not just the sound itself, but the words artists/bands choose to use to express themselves.  Wingspeak has some really great lines here – like I said, the main hooks of the chorus work brilliantly – but it’s also one of those moments that prove my point perfectly…that’s the level of effort we’re looking for, and lyrics that stand out for all the right reasons, and it becomes natural for us to want that level of detail all the time.  Performance-wise though…I’m finding precious little, if anything at all, that I’d complain about – especially in the context of a debut record, which the College St. EP appears to be – everything is sitting right where it should be in the mix, there’s plenty of detail in the background to dig into, and the lead vocals come out shining as wonderfully as the sound of the music does…it’s a pleasant song about those cautious first steps towards the center of the spotlight.  Above all things, the warm & welcoming energy in what we hear counts for a ton in the overall appeal – Wingspeak gets us onboard & wanting to listen straight away, and that’s pretty darn crucial when it comes to any record we listen to.

While I wouldn’t go as far as to say Wingspeak necessarily reminds me of The Breeders on a musical level…vocally, there’s a real resemblance to Kim Deal, which is plenty cool with me.  Wingspeak is more towards the Pop/Rock side of sound than the Indie/Alternative of The Breeders, but there’s a similar spark in the melody of the vocals that really works for me.  “Walk On Water” has arguably more depth to it than “Center Stage” did…the friendly opening vibes of the music are replaced by a more serious sound this time around, but a focused one that gets the most out of this second tune.  I’ll admit, there’s a trade for a little more substance & a little less widespread accessibility here, but I’d imagine that if you were a fan of what you heard on “Center Stage” as the record began, you’d have no problem sticking around through the rest of this lineup, with “Walk On Water” certainly included in that assessment.  Good ideas in how the keyboards chime in, love the drums, the main hooks of the chorus come through really well once again with harmonies & backup vocals…Wingspeak has a gift for melody, and the more that gets leaned on going forward, I think the better off this project/band continues to be.  I will say this though…I ALMOST feel cheated here…and I feel like Wingspeak knows exactly WHY that is.  After reading in the brief bio how “she likes guitars a lot” – how on earth we only get like, twenty seconds of the most kickass tone and rad solo at the very end of “Walk On Water” before it wraps up and the house lights come back on, I’ll never know.  You get a taste earlier on towards the ninety-second mark I suppose, but even that moment’s got nothin’ on how awesome Wingspeak sounds at the end guitar-wise…so if I can request, on all our behalf, that we get a whole lot MORE of that in the future, that’d be mighty appreciated!  All-in-all though, it’s another strong performance and a tighter track in my opinion – “Walk On Water” won’t be as big of a hit as “Center Stage” was with the listeners out there most likely, but I felt like this second cut spoke stronger on behalf of the songwriting found within Wingspeak.  Someone out there agrees with me…it looks like “Walk On Water” was released as an advance single before the College St. EP officially came out…so there!  Sometimes real depth wins over musical charm.

While it moves at a faster pace and it’s been created years & years later – a track like “Unexpected Song” actually owes a whole lot to “Everyday” by Buddy Holly…have a listen to the main hooks of the chorus in each song & tell me that you don’t hear the similarities.  It’s different enough that it’d escape most people, and I’d imagine Wingspeak likely comes by it honestly anyhow…but yeah…that’s kind of a perfect example of how we can come to similar conclusions when it comes to melodies in music.  We don’t always intend it, but sometimes we stumble straight into something that is very familiar to us, and we don’t always even know why or where it came from.  When it comes right down to it, Wingspeak has about a million things more in common with something like Echobelly than someone like Buddy Holly, and I’d certainly agree that just about everything outside of the main hooks is its own separate thing.  That being said – if I was Wingspeak, I’d capitalize on this situation…I’d probably look into creating some kind of smooth transition and make the two songs into a medley when playing live.  It’s really only gonna be super-old people like me that would theoretically hear where the roots of a melody like you hear in “Unexpected Song” were born long ago before Wingspeak was even around anyway – but it’s a good moment to combine the past & the present, given that this song already kind of accomplishes that.  In terms of execution and performances though, I’m honestly relentlessly impressed by what’s on the College St. EP – there hasn’t been a moment on it so far that doesn’t contain a brilliant amount of color and detail, great musicianship, and a tight band at work…the material is coming out really strong from the music to the microphone, from the lead to the background, and that’s definitely something to be proud of.  I dig that addition of the harmonica here, I think the drums have been extraordinary in each & every track I’ve heard, and I love the way the backing vocals complement the lead.  “Unexpected Song” was another single released in advance of the College St. EP…and as much as that makes sense to me as a choice, I’m still kind of surprised that both these songs jumped ahead of “Center Stage” – to me, that’s still the song with the best chance of being the gateway into the music of Wingspeak for the masses.

“Into The Void” is alright!  I could probably take or leave this tune in comparison to the rest of the lineup, but I ain’t hatin’ on it either.  Dig the guitar parts…if anything, I’d probably bring those to the front a bit more, give it some of that college-rock sound…which would be kind of appropriate for an EP called College St. wouldn’t ya say?  The bass stands out to me on this track too…but overall, I gotta say, I really do admire the consistency that’s been on display in the performances and the balance of strengths in the material as well.  “Into The Void” heads more towards what the kids would call the ol’ ‘deep cut’ as opposed to tracks like the first three on this record that have much more ear-catching hooks overall…but think of it this way, if “Into The Void” is the least hook-laden cut to be found, honestly, Wingspeak is on pretty damn solid ground.  I would definitely be looking at listening to all kinds of stuff that happened in the 90s from Belly to The Breeders, Echobelly & such…sometimes the pathway forward is rooted in the past, and I feel like Wingspeak would find an incredible amount of inspiration in some of those bands from back in the day to propel this project forward in the present.  “Into The Void” has a good mix of playfulness & seriousness…I dig the ambient sounds in the background, I dig the fact that Wingspeak continues to put in solid performances that reveal the true potential in the band for the future to come…and heck, it’s still a catchy enough tune to grab most of your attention out there.  Let’s not forget – these are the earliest tunes in the Wingspeak catalog right now – all indications point directly to everything about this project/band getting better & better.  I’d “travel into the void” with ya Wingspeak – don’t get my words twisted, there’s plenty to believe in when it comes to this music they’re making…it’s already good – I’m simply saying it’ll go on to be even greater.

While it would probably be fair to say that the majority of the accessibility and melodic weight, hooks and charm are front-loaded into the first three tracks in this particular set of five – I didn’t feel the other two tracks were all that far behind, and can definitely still hear the potential for each of the latter two cuts to go on to be special moments in a live setting.  “Between Us” probably edges just ahead of a song like “Into The Void” in terms of what the people out there listening would connect with…but again, it’d just be by a fraction…the material here is pretty close knit, and shows that Wingspeak definitely has all the right ingredients to continue forward from here and make an even bigger impact with that next step in its evolution.  Focus on that uniqueness, focus on the heart in the songwriting & sincerity of the melodies…and when in doubt Wingspeak, let those guitar tones steal the show and turn those amplifiers up!  “Between Us” is a good tune to end the College St. EP…I have the feeling that Wingspeak was stoked to get this collection of past tunes out there into the world so that the new ones have the full runway clearance as this band takes off to the next exciting chapter to come.  There’s no reason to be dissatisfied with any of this though…for a debut, there’s a whole lot here to work with, and a blueprint that illuminates the pathway forward for sure.  Looking forward to hearing where it all goes next, and hearing Wingspeak thriving out there in this independent scene we all share together – there’s a whole lot of passion in this project that’s guaranteed to lead’em in the right direction.  Great start to it all so far – stellar musicianship, tightly played, solid material…lots to work with, and lots to be encouraged by.

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