Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Grownup Noise - This Time With Feeling

It’s no secret to readers of this here blog that The Grownup Noise is quickly moving up the ranks to one of my very favorite local bands. So when I got the 411 that they were releasing a new disc, it’s safe to say the anticipation for it was palpable. I was happy to tear off the shrink wrap and pop that baby right into my player the very day it arrived.

As expected, I was not let down.

This Time With Feeling was, as the title suggests, full of, well, feeling! Not to mention the band’s distinctive, signature sound. Lead singer and guitarist Paul Hansen put his pen to paper this time around and conjured up twelve songs with lyrics that provoke emotion from the listener, and that ethereal quality of musical reflection these hard working guys and gals have come to be known for.

Paul, along with cellist Katie Franich, bassist Adam Sankowski and drummer Aine Fujioka, (as well as Kyle Crane on drum and Todd Marston on accordian) spin their delicate, yet powerful, beats and strings into a blend of music that defies any labeling into one specific genre; their music truly has something for everybody to enjoy.

This album seriously crosses gender/genre/age/taste lines so smoothly I could play it for anyone and I guarantee they would find at least one track they love. But it isn't all over the place either. Like a runway show at fashion week, the songs stand alone yet still represent a cohesive collection.

When I loaded the disc into my iTunes it classifies as Alternative but there is an influence of jazz, urban/indie pop, folk and smooth summertime groove on every track of this album. Each member of the band (plus a host of featured guests) mixes it up among multiple instruments and vocal backing to bring the fullness of the entire band’s talent front and center; no matter what you call it, the thing is just plain great.

Right off the bat I recognized a couple songs as they were featured on their 2010 EP Shall We? including the lead off song “Strawmen” which was more than a pleasant way to ease right into this disc as if it was my favorite recliner chair. As I continued to listen my ears perked at three more songs from the EP -- “The Artist Type”, “Six Foot Solemn Oath” and “So It Goes”. It was fun to hear some grooves that I was already familiar with blend seamlessly into the additional eight tracks on the disc.

Then I got to track 9, “Just So You Know”. Within twenty seconds the words “this is a radio single” tumbled out of my mouth. And I mean it. I could picture hearing this song on just about any contemporary radio station and bopping along as I roll the windows down in the warm winds of spring. It’s a perfect song to drive to, to cook to, to dance to and to sing along with.

The lyrics are catchy, there’s that thing, that hook, that any radio song really needs, but it isn’t overtly in your face like some pop songs. They hug you with it and it washes over you like it’s your best friend and closest confidant. By the time I got to the end of the song it was like I’d already known it forever.

The last three tracks didn’t disappoint either and the final track, “Somehow We Escaped” is stripped down, ballad-esque and whimsical as Paul and a baritone guitar sweetly, and honestly, put you at ease with his utterly unique voice. You know, despite the fact that the lyrics are about anything but whimsical subjects.

And when it ends all you’ll want to do is start it over again from the beginning. Which I did. Immediately, and with a smile.

Where It All Began

My self proclaimed groupieness with this band started years ago, before I’d even heard a single note from even one of their instruments, when I found out they had converted a 30 some odd year old van to run on veggie oil and they were planning to use it to tour that very summer. The van, dubbed with the moniker Lorian (as taken directly from the side of the van), made two back to back summer tours and was put to rest before last year’s summer tour.

After speaking with Adam about why Lorian had to be put out to pasture I learned that, although veggie conversions are a great idea for bands, they’re still in the earliest stages of testing and, basically, the kinks were kind of outweighing the benefits.

That’s not to say the band is all about stomping on the planet now, quite the opposite! They’re still uber conscious, recycling on the road and keeping an eye on their fuel consumption by limiting the zig-zag of a typical tour. And that makes them even cooler in my book.

Where You Can See them Live

A kick off show for the release of This Time With Feeling is happening this Friday night at the Middle East Downstairs, right in Central Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Tickets are insanely cheap, $12, and are likely to sell out quick because these folks have a pretty healthy local following.

(Hint, hint -- go buy your ticket now!)

But if you can’t make it to that show fear not! The band is on every social media network known to man -- Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and you can listen to their live music on YouTube, just search The Grownup Noise. Not to mention a schedule of appearances is updated regularly on their official website.

Trust me, buy this new disc, you will not be disappointed.