Since their high school days, the Texas-based trio of friends Mitch Kilman, James Iacuone, and Sheetal Aiyer have made music together. However, it is only in recent years when the three friends decided to constitute their collaboration as a band and record their first release of original material. Wake Up’s thirteen tracks are never one thing but, instead, many. They are musically substantive, the obvious product of sympathetic musicians writing and playing together for many years and treating their craft with appropriate seriousness. They are entertaining without ever sounding frothy. Their crowning touch, perhaps, is how they balance the personal and universal.
Many of the songs on the album come from a first person point of view. It closes the distance between artist and audience on songs such as the opener “Wormhole”. There’s much to be said for the trio’s musical acumen and this review will continue touching on that, but the band’s lyrical gifts are considerable. “Wormhole” takes imagery and ideas familiar to listeners in a much different context and skillfully applies them to much more earthbound concerns. There’s wonderful plain-spoken poetry present here and elsewhere.
The second song “Cleaner Heartaches” is a ballad in The Frequencies mold with well-layered instrumentation and strong melodic virtues carrying the day. Piano and strings give “Cleaner Heartaches” a more relaxed touch than the presence of horns in the first song but never sweeten the track too much. Low-key backing vocals buttresses a soulful lead vocal tailored to the song, particularly its piano. The latter essentially works as a third “vocalist” in the song.
“Kilter” has an ethereal sheen without ever overdoing it. The Frequencies are adept at blending classic pop elements with ingredients such as forceful distorted electric guitar without breeding dissonance. They turn towards a bluesy direction with the track “Look at You”, but it’s far removed from the bucket of blood blues treatment you might hear from others. Melody has the same importance to the song’s final result
“Why You Fightin’” is a rare uptempo track on the album. The change in tempo is welcome; the first seven songs share a near-uniform pace and will turn off some listeners. Ramping things up likewise elicits a different vocal response from the band and there’s a particularly fiery zest in the singing absent from many other songs. There’s a loose-limbed relaxed vibe presiding over many of the songs that may strike some listeners as recalling the sound of bands like Neil Young and Crazy Horse circa their Zuma album. They hail from West Texas, but there’s something uniquely California singer/songwriter about this release.
The penultimate “Who’s the Thinker?” begins with a slightly extended intro before the vocals enter. Many will be disappointed the vocals are low in the mix compared with other songs, but it isn’t a potentially fatal flaw. The Frequencies surround the songwriting and playing with a light atmospheric cloud that accentuates the song’s slightly hazy mood. For all intents and purposes, this album is two decades in the making and it’s as impressive of a debut as anyone could hope for.
Donate to IndiePulse Music Magazine’s Academic and Music Education Scholarship Program HeartBeat4Kids
IndiePulse Music Magazine creates Scholarships to help Youth In Need of assistance to complete their educational goals and stay in school.