Review Summary: Creative beyond their youthful years and youthful tunes.
If there’s one thing that never fails to impress my ears, it’s unabashed and genuine ambition. Any band that strives for something more, something lovably new
, can consider themselves memorable in my eyes. River City Extension is a young band, and ... And the Unmistakable Man
is the album that will catapult them from a local treasure to more widespread fame. Indie or folk on the surface, there’s much more to ... And The Unmistakable Man
that lies below. Yes, it’s easy to fall in love with the exuberant melodies and the sincere ballads; but please, if you will, dig a little deeper to find the rest- all that River City Extension has to offer. A smorgasbord of delectable passages await you, from vibrant mariachi passages to ebullient and danceable parts, even a reoccurring punk tinge (most likely a product of their Jersey roots). Wherever River City Extension lets down in consistency, they make up more than the difference with creativity and passion.
Starting out slow can be a deadly snag for any band, but this applies twofold to the regional start-ups like River City Extension looking to gain a foothold. Thankfully, for every little disappointment like “Something Salty, Something Sweet,” there’s a savior to the rescue, “South For the Winter.” A slowly-building track, “South For the Winter” is the first sign of great moments to follow as the melodies bounce up and down, valleys and mountains, speeding up and slowing down. Personal lyrics and grand choruses beg a little sing-along action, as the vocalist excitedly yells the title to the track amidst a flurry of instruments. Never straying away from instrumental diversity, River City Extension often use a plethora of instruments to lend some more dimensions to the album. Horns, a cello, trumpets, dual male/female vocals, among others create an elaborate soundscape. Engaging and ambitious, let’s hope this gem doesn’t get overlooked this year.
The results are often thrilling. Among the folk atmosphere that encompasses Unmistakable Man
, there’s also a discernible amount of 20-something angst that plagues the lyric sheet. “Another death upon a mountain top / Our lives are nothing but some real shit luck / Remember when we used to give a fuck? / Well I don’t think the Lord understands,”
from “Holy Cross” perfectly exemplifies the doubting, the uncertainty, and skepticism of the album. Unmistakable Man
latest isn’t immune to comparisons to the quintessential 20’s-angst band, The National, but Arcade Fire and The Rural Alberta Advantage serve as some lofty resemblances too, illustrating the sheer scope of River City’s sophomore effort. Perhaps the albums biggest strength alongside the diversity and abundant creativity is the cleanness of the production. The vocalist’s placid voice is a staple throughout, providing the perfect blank slate to spill the introspective lines. The engaging production, like the clear blue sky of the album cover, serves to accentuate the lovable one-liners spit out so naturally from River City.
Also endearing is the band’s liveliness. To complement the more downtrodden lyrical content, River City Extension counteract the angst with an energetic and dynamic spirit, leaving one to wonder how sad and confused frontman Joe Michilini really
is. Done with less expertise, and these elements would surely clash. Though, be it the blaring horns or more subtle additions like the songs’ tendencies to reach gripping crescendos, the energy exudes a nice counterbalance to the weightiness of ... And The Unmistakable Man.
While flowing adequately, the album does
suffer from a little inconsistency here and there. Particularly around the halfway mark, River City loosen their grip on the listener’s attention with slower songs that don’t live up to their potential. Once again, I’m reminded as to why ... And The Unmistakable Man
already is about knee-deep into my listening-memory. The instances where River City Extension fails to impress are always overshadowed by the times where they surprise me with ingenuity or creativity. Particularly impressive is the band’s ability to switch back and forth between uptempo and slower sections, their knack for incorporating diverse aspects into their music (punk, folk, indie, lovely horns), and riveting lyrical abilities to complement. River City Extension is creative beyond their young years and youthful style. Despite a few rough patches, ... And The Unmistakable Man
is an unmistakably great album that displays a band reaching outside their limits and exemplifying something I can respect- exhibiting a little ambition.