CD Reviews - January 2021
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JONAH WHALE – VI (Adamsapple Records) Northeastern PA-based rock artist Jonah Whale has evolved his own hard-rocking style and identity over his first five albums. That evolution extends into his latest and sixth album, appropriately called VI. Inspired by classic 1970s and 80s hard rock, but informed by newer flavors of the 1990s and 2000s as well, Jonah crafts 15 distinctive and captivating songs over this album's course. Jonah again shows his knack for the quick-hitting, rock anthem-styled song hook, and emphatically drills his song hooks into the cranium with his blend of booming rhythms, muscular guitar riffs, and his tense and hearty vocal wail coupled with layered harmonies and gang choruses. Jonah delivers the enthusiastic fist-pumping power anthems here, including the robust album-opener “Pump It Up,” “Ready Set Go,” “Nothin' Like This,” “Raise Your Hands” and the arena-ready disc closer “Let's Get Loud.” Beyond the anthems, Jonah shows some different nuances and curve balls - “Aliens in Hollywood” takes more of a space-rock vibe that hints of early 70s-era David Bowie, while “Radio Active Blonde” taps into 1980s new wave rock terrain, and “Take Me There” channels a Mediterranean Led Zeppelin “Kashmir” flavor. Breaking with past albums, Jonah shows a milder and slower side with the romantic-toned power ballads “She Moves Like the Wind” and “Do You Remember Me,” and shows a contemplative twist on the solid and steady “My Tattoo.” Jonah sings with conviction throughout the album, demonstrating a strong and nuanced voice that can go from wild to mild as the mood of each song warrants. He also displays a way with words, conveying easy-to-digest lyrics and quick-hitting wordplay hooks as well. Handling all instrumentation, Jonah displays dexterity and skill on all fronts. Recorded, mixed and mastered at Jonah's own Adamsapple Records and produced by Maxwell Paris, VI sounds appropriately thunderous, deep and sharp. Jonah Whale delivers another vibrant and charged slab of rock with VI, and continues to advance his brand of hard-hitting music in catchy and intriguing directions. (The album can be obtained through Jonah Whale's website, www.jonahwhale.com.)
STEVE TREADO – OFF THE GRID (no label) With COVID-19 preventing his band, Jampact, from entertaining on central PA stages during 2020, State College-based multi-instrumentalist and singer Steve Treado has instead concentrated on his own music, and recently issued his latest album, Off The Grid. While his previous albums tested the waters of blues, rock, Americana and other flavors, Off The Grid finds Steve concentrating more toward folk, alt-country and Americana flavors, with touches of blues and rock peppering the album's 16 songs. Steve sings and plays an assortment of instruments here, including guitars, piano and keys, mandolin and percussion. Steve's songs are catchy and mostly mild-mannered, and each presents its own unique journey. “Never” starts off the album in a driving folk-rock vein, with its theme of resolving to never disappoint or inflict harm. As its title suggests, “Keep On Smiling” generates an uplifting and Americana flavor with words of embracing each new day with happiness and hope. Steve ventures into a country ballad direction with the piano-fueled “Some Way to Remember” and a lyrical wish to rekindle the flame, and delivers a punchier modern country vibe with “Take A Look at Me Now.” Steve shows a lighter rock direction with “Better Than Never,” and flexes a harder edge on the dark-toned “Howl at the Moon.” He celebrates making music on the road with the folk-driven “Travelin' Band,” and expresses appreciation of the blues on the acoustic and upbeat “Bluesy Music.” Steve sings his words with a consistent, relaxed and rustic delivery, and crafts good-sounding vocal harmonies and vocal layers throughout the album. His arrangements are tasteful and serve each song, and the instrumental performances are smooth and flow together well. Self-recorded and produced at Steve's own Hedgerow Studio, this album sounds clear, cohesive, balanced and polished. Steve Treado's gift of songcraft shines on Off the Grid, a warm and engaging set that satisfies from start to end. (The album can be obtained through Steve's website, www.stevetreado.com.)
THUNDER VEST – NEXT ROUND (Iron City Records) Prophesizing to their minions on cramped dive bar stages since 2012, Pittsburgh punk-rocking quintet Thunder Vest unleashes their latest round of no-holds-barred, punk-fueled anthems on their 14-track album Next Round. The cast of Scott on vocals, Steve and Neil on guitars, Phil on bass and Kevin on drums deliver infectious, fast-firing two- and three-chord anthems that are short, sweet and to the point. The adrenaline is constant, as Thunder Vest keeps the tempo hot throughout. They set the tone with the rapid fire rant “Drag City,” mix a slight touch of surf-rock attitude on “Backseat Romance,” and Scott wails some harmonica during the fast and fiery “Wonder Sluts.” The title track “Next Round” offers a raucous and rowdy drinking anthem, while the group salutes the “Karate Kid” movie franchise on the speed burner “Sweep the Leg,” containing the noteworthy lyrical rant “So macho...Ralph Macchio.” Scott teams with guest Betti Coates for the wild one-night stand duet “Do It,” and the group punks up a Cars classic with their version of “Best Friends Girl.” Thunder Vest's performances are charged and go-for-broke; the band keeps foot on the accelerator, while Scott sings and howls with vigor and intensity. Recorded and mastered by The Cheats' Eric Wrecker at Red Room Studios, Next Round sounds bristling, sharp, loud and proud. Their blend of simple melodies, velocity and wit makes Thunder Vest's Next Round a jubilant punk rock joyride, and a satisfying set to crank up loud as you imbibe your next round. (The digital album and vinyl edition can be obtained through Thunder Vest's Bandcamp web page.)