The Gray Company – Shoplifters
The Gray Company was formed in early 2014 and hails from Union, NJ. Their music has been described as “an eclectic mix of indie rock, soul, and even a little taste of jazz.” They released their first EP, Island Fortress, Island Home, in February 2015. They released their sophomore project this summer in the way of Shoplifters. Shoplifters is an interesting mix of Jersey-hewn tunes with a flavor all theirs.
Comprised of Zebeeb Awalom – vocals/guitar, Jason Fandino – guitar, Adrian Kabigting – bass, and Josh Howard – drums, The Gray Company uses an eclectic combination of immersive thought and musical style to create a gratifying sonic cohesion. Countless hours spent in bedrooms and little conversations translate into finely-tuned compositional goals.
Comprised of six finely-crafted songs, Shoplifters caught my ear as soon as it came out of the speakers. The Gray Company have scored several impressive reviews, including articles from CoolDad Music, Speak Into My Good Eye, Jersey Audible and even a mention by The Aquarian’s own Maria Ciezak, just to name a few important writer opinions.
The band is currently out on a jaunt through Washington D.C., South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, pushing their new record to the general public through the stage, radio performance and online. Due to undisclosed reasons, drummer Josh Howard will not be touring with the band this trip out and has been replaced with Dan DeLafe for the tour.
As per my usual method, I’ve utilized my interpretation and descriptive for the disc, and will give that to you now.
First up is a song called “By The Moon.” Upbeat and smooth as hell, The Gray Company pump healthy doses of poppy, indie-infused summertime tone throughout the composition. Awalom’s vocals are light, breezy and right on time. Hailing from the vocalist pool of singers such as Harriett Wheeler from The Sundays, Awalom peppers the song with memorable melodies and pristine harmonies. Band members each contribute tons of color to this unforgettable tune.
“Direct Affect” is next and features a hooky guitar-driven theme led by Jason Fandino as Zebeeb drifts airily over the top and down into the poppy mix. Drummer Josh Howard and bassist Adrian Kabigting hold things steady as Zebeeb and Jason color the backbone of this riveting tune. Mixing the capable sounds of Joni Mitchell and 10,000 Maniacs, The Gray Company explore all aspects of original sound as they drive their influential flavor through the piece. Fandino’s single note guitar runs add full flavor to a lively melody.
“Wasting Time” is an exploration of crystal clear guitars and melodic vocals. Fandino skips across the sound spectrum like a flat rock on a lake as Awalom soars high over the arrangement. This song reminds me of some of the arrangements of Sugar Ray. The choruses are a bit nondescript here but what it lacks in commercial pop sensibility is made up for with genuine believability and feel.
“Temporary Love” unwinds with a brilliant wash of rhythm guitar work courtesy of Awalom and Fandino. Drummer Josh Howard works in flawless measure with Kabigting as Awalom sings with effortless grace, waxing poetic on the subject of relationship woes. Demonstrating a wide talent of dynamic approach, she reminds me of Skye Edwards (Morcheeba) on this free-flowing piece.
“Black Sea” features clean, chorus-driven guitars, staccato bass and simple four on the floor drum work. Awalom’s vocals are multi-layered ribbons of beauty as they layer upon each other over the bands bottom heavy attack. With a combined sound of pop, rock and soulful R&B flavorings, “Black Sea” is one of my favorites on the disc.
Last but not least is “She Told Me.” A slowly rising intro features Fandino and bandmates riffing underneath the vocal ministrations of Awalom. Based off of a slowly building loop pattern of riffs and melodic juxtapositions, “She Told Me” delivers a clever grouping of sounds to listeners looking for something unlike anything else out there today.
Utilizing a strong sense of compositional direction mixed with instrumental talent and a drive to create something different, The Gray Company has hit upon something great with Shoplifters. The CD is available (as of this writing) over at www.thegraycompany.bandcamp.com. You can purchase the download for the low price of $5 and the physical CD for $10.
If you want to catch them live, the band is set to finish their tour at the Banana Stand in New Brunswick, NJ on Nov. 22. My suggestion would be to buy Shoplifters and catch them live while they’re around.
The Cold Seas – Afterglow
Though the band is barely out of the gates, The Cold Seas has already gained lots of ground within the industry. The group’s self-produced and home-recorded EP, Afterglow, has already earned high marks, praised for its sophisticated psych sound, with elements of progressive and folk rock. Afterglow helped The Cold Seas land an ongoing tour behind Armor For Sleep while they continue working on their debut album, planned for release next year.
All members have played in various groups before getting together and are seasoned professionals when it comes to writing and performing top-shelf music. Citing fairly common influential heroes, bands such as Nirvana, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and even Michael Jackson are cited as influences. But however they’ve done it, those references have helped place The Cold Seas into a very select category of musicians, which in this case, is a very good thing. I recently ran into the band at Johnny Mac’s during the Asbury Underground after party and grabbed a disc from them. It’s only three songs but here is what I thought about it.
Up first is “Crush Me.” Featuring big, greasy guitars, echoed vocals and harmonies, the song comes down into an eerie vocal-led passage before heading back into the riff and vocal barrage. Chad Sabo has an interesting voice and uses it to full effect on the tune. Bass and drum work is laid back and strong as Erik Rudic’s guitar work leads the way.
Disc namesake “Afterglow” is up next. If you like John Lennon vibes, you’re going to love this song. Sabo’s melodic and warped harmony approach is both effective and hooky, leaving bandmates plenty of expression-driven space to add their compositional styles to the mix. With a simple, music box layer of sound, The Cold Seas build their own genuine walls of musical viability and its good stuff.
“You’re Right” is the last song on the short disc. Building from the tumultuous drum work of Nash Breen, “You’re Right” lays down a frenetic trail of guitar and vocal magic. Vocals are toned and affected at just the right levels as they rumble down their chosen pathway of musical expression. Bass work comes courtesy of Matt Castoral, and it mixes perfectly with Breen’s stormy skin work.
The disc is simply a temporary offering while the band works out their next full-length project, but it’s a viable and worthwhile piece of music to add to your collection. The Cold Seas offer the listener highly original sounds and ideas to lock into, and I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next.
For more information on The Cold Seas, and where to get a copy of Afterglow, head over to thecoldseas.com.