Monday, July 12, 2010
As I am sure is the case for many of you, I typically have enough new music to listen to from artists I like and from bands recommended to me by friends that I don’t often seek out even more new music from the countless blogs that are pushing someone new every day. Every now and then there are exceptions, and I am in the right mood to check out something that wasn’t even on my radar previously. That said, I am most drawn to bands that send me links with a good concise press release and who don’t sensationalize themselves with a bunch of industry speak.
Halsted, based out of San Francisco, was a band whom I had never heard the name of, much less listened to. You know how sometimes your friend says – “hey do you like the band so & so?” And you, trying not to sound out of touch, say “I’ve heard the name, but I don’t know their music.”
Maybe that’s just what I do, for some odd reason, but I couldn’t have even said that much about Halsted. I also hadn’t heard of the previous release by the band’s principle songwriter, Ryan Auffenberg, who released a record in 2008 entitled Marigolds.
So all that roundabout description is to let you know that I basically knew zero about this band before I pressed play. Typically this situation results in listening to 45 seconds of 2-3 songs, then stopping the music, deleting the mp3s, and playing something else. As it turned out with Halsted, I liked what I heard, and before I knew it, I’d listened to the entire album a few times through. I'm still listening to the album regularly a month later.
Often a band’s first record sounds like it was made from a recipe. Songwriter: 1) writes song, 2) finds bassist, drummer, and sometimes lead guitarist, 3) records songs with band, making them sound just like they sounded before, except with bass, guitar, and drums in the background. This is not the case with Halsted. Each song on Life Underwater sounds carefully crafted and well arranged, and the influences of this band appear to be diverse. At times the band brings up impressions of Wilco or the Gin Blossoms, although the resemblance to those bands is not overpowering.
The album is strong for its duration, although the current favorite for me is "Rising Tide," a mid-paced rocker that I have to imagine sounds great live. "White Hot City Lights," "Sellout," and "Knock on Wood" are additional high points, although there is seemingly a song for every mood on this album, such that any song may emerge as a favorite depending on your situation at the time. The album's tone sound is generally upbeat and filled with strong guitar arrangements throughout. In short, I am thoroughly impressed with Halsted, and look forward to hearing the band progress, as their sound is well-developed for a first record and indicates a promising future.
Check out "Rising Tide," among other songs, on their Myspace page. Life Underwater will be released on Ashbury Records tomorrow, July 13th.