As a music journalist, my relationship with Wind-Up Records has always fallen on the side of love/hate. They're one of the few labels who truly make it easy for the writers to do their job. The albums just flow in... Creed, Evanescence, Drowning Pool, Seether, and I listen to each meticulously. While each has its own redeeming qualities, I just couldn't get into any of them. Then Wind-Up signed The Exit
Home For an Island
is a flat out amazing record. One of my personal three must-have-album's of 2005. My only regret is that I haven't had time to write a review sooner. I've had this disc, listening to it almost nonstop for four months, and I haven't even told anyone. Shame on me. I need to gush.
And there's no better place to start than the beginning, track one- "Don't Push". The only single to receive any radio recognition in the area, and even that was embarrassing minimal. A song about infidelity and regret, it sets the tone musically for the rest of the album. Perhaps most easily defined as modern rock song with an underlining indie and reggae feel, with beautiful vocal harmonies, guitar tones, full bass, and busy-but-clear drums. It's sometimes hard to believe that The Exit is only a 3-piece.
Actually, come to think of it, the drums are one of the highlights of the record. The production, the often super-fast playing without sounding like mush or getting in the way of the rest of the song, the minimalistic use of cymbals, all played a part in my realization that the drum tracks alone could be a fun album to listen to, and I'm not even a drummer. Perhaps the best example of the drums is track two, "Let's Go To Haiti".
Clocking in at less than two and a half minutes, "Let's Go To Haiti" is musically a grunge-punk song reminiscent of early 90's Nirvana
and Pearl Jam
, but with two vocalists, you'll immediately notice how they took the familiar sound one step further.
Home For an Island
is the sophomore effort by the New York City band, consisting of Ben Brewer on guitar and vocals, Jeff DaRosa on bass and vocals, and Gunnar on drums and vocals. The first album was said to be much more pop-punk with Caribbean rhythms in an old-school Police sort of way. The latest effort is more a step in the natural direction of growth and maturity.
If "Let's Go To Haiti" brings back the sounds of Nirvana, the title track "Home for an Island" is a step back to Pablo Honey/The Bends
. Not only musically, but socially/politically as well, which is a definite theme throughout the album, and perhaps the reason the track became the album's moniker as well. Speaking of the social political aspects of the album, there's no denying the lyrics to "Warm Summer Days":
"When your innocent eyes awaken / to find your feet and your boots in the sand / and instead of a phone or your ipod / son - you got a gun in your hand / I remember the day that I signed up
For school mom just can't afford / And the lies came crashing from top shelves / Pulled you straight to the desert storm".
The preceding track, "Soldier", follows the same theme, just sans band. Acoustic guitar, harmonica, and the slightly imperfect vocals full of genuine emotion with lyrics like "I've seen war / I've seen the headlines fall from the sky / Just like the rain..."
Back to the music, the song with the most Caribbean/island nods would have to be "So Leave Then", which features common reggae harmonies (by Lauren Hoffman nonetheless, remember her song "Rock Star" almost 10 years ago?), beautifully blended saxophone, and even the sound of a steel drum, which actually seems almost out of place at first, but makes more sense after a few listens.
For such a talented rock band, I was kind of surprised by the lack of solos on the album, on any instrument. The closest I heard was more of an extended improvisational fill on guitar. But perhaps they've just proved themselves in other areas and they didn't see the need for it.
Either way, I wholeheartedly recommend this album to anyone who may be into a great mesh of sounds from The Police to Radiohead to Nirvana to island/dub. Grade: A+.
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