Review Summary: An eclectic and refreshing cyclone of indie pop and jazz fusion created for those with a sweet tooth for real musicianship.
Gideon King & City Blog are a NYC jazz/pop collective comprised of a long list of musicians and singers, including band leader and instrumental virtuoso Gideon King and even a former vocalist for Steely Dan. Their 2015 self titled release is an imaginative blend of pop rock and jazz fusion, offering stellar interplay between loungey piano rock and extraordinary instrumental jamming.
What GK and City Blog are able to effortlessly is match beautifully sung east coast lounge songs with remarkable jazz phrasing. They manage to keep things interesting for the full fifty minutes with a barrage of different vocalists leading the way on each track, diversifying the sonic pallet. All musicians here are truly gifted; on infectious intro track “City Blog”, a piano rock tune that transitions flawlessly into a jam session, Gideon King rips the listener to shreds with a hectic guitar solo and piano player Kevin Hays pounds away at his 88 keys frantically for a gorgeous jazz-inspired solo of his own. It’s the perfect way to introduce you to what City Blog does best; jazzy jam sessions surrounding and in between catchy lounge pop tracks. “See in Double” follows “City Blog” and contrasts it perfectly, whereas the opener is uplifting, “See in Double” is perhaps the most melancholic song on the entire record, encapsulating the dark aura of New York City streets before sliding gracefully into a sax solo so beautiful it’s hard not to rewind it when it’s over.
After two openers that are designed to be sonic opposites, “Down” plays it safe by melding the two styles heard previously. The pop sections of the track are a bit flat and the vocal melodies are bland, but all is forgiven once Gideon takes over with a carefully-paced guitar solo which is followed by delicate drum fills that end the solo section on a high note. Even when the songwriting isn’t at it’s best like here, it’s hard to fault the musicianship which always strives to be unpredictable.
“Glide” is a real gem. A folk oriented track where Gideon shows off his acoustic chops, the real highlight here are the perfectly sung, female indie/pop vocal melodies so breathtaking they overshadow the musical arrangement. Gideon’s guitar work here is nothing short of awe-inspiring though, offering a softer counterpart to his usual rockin’ fusion solos. Melodically, he almost never repeats the same line twice, on this track or others, showcasing dedication to making each of these songs different from the next.
“Just Play” is almost too catchy, too jazzy, and should have been the closer. Gideon’s solo here is absolutely incredible, and he’s not even playing guitar this time. It’s a masterful synth solo that wouldn’t be out of place on an early YES record, and it should have closed the album. Unfortunately, outro track “Broken Noise” seems cheesy and a bit redundant when you listen to the entire album preceding it. Vocalists chant “New York, is perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect now and then” but do they forget how well they captured the city that never sleeps on all the other songs through just the instrumental arrangements" Subtlety is their friend and biggest advantage throughout the whole album, but here on the closer they cheapen it a bit.
Gideon King and City Blog have crafted an album that astounds with its mastery of New York lounge pop and instrumental jam flurries. It’s always refreshing to hear musicians with skill at both writing songs and playing their respective instrument. Every band member offers polished solos, every vocalist has a great voice. Perhaps there are a few tracks that should have been left off, but despite this, Gideon King and City Blog’s self titled debut is jam packed with a little something for every music fan. Musicians especially will appreciate the diversity in the arrangements, melding of pop and jazz and attention to recreating the atmosphere of the New York City skyline.