Thomas Wesley Stern – Never Leaving
Thomas Wesley Stern has always been a favorite here at the Aquarian, and I’m glad to have them back with another musical offering. Featuring music crafted from the original methods of past greats, Thomas Wesley Stern travels many a road to discover true calling. Featuring music made with old world instruments such as violin, banjo, stand-up bass and acoustic guitars, Never Leaving is a look into influential directives made unto their own. Consisting of musicians Gary Mayer, Joseph Makoviecki, Robert Jackson, James Black, James Herdman and Justin Herdman, Thomas Wesley Stern takes their unique point of view from traditional American music of days gone by.
Never Leaving is an 11-song journey into their ever-broadening understanding of music and the world in which they live.
“Landing” chirps into the mix with banjo before bass, guitar and vocals spread the wings of this intricate musical piece. Vocals are full and precise, offering the listener a look into a very well-oiled musical machine. The lyrical subject matter is complex and filled with imagery.
“When You’ve Got A Broken Heart” comes next and blows out of the speakers with banjo and fiddle patterns that sound like it came right off the back porch of a Tennessee farmhouse. Exploring the age-old quandary of unrequited love, “When You’ve Got A Broken Heart” chugs and hisses through the pinelands of the back Jersey world from whence they came. I love the warbling style of singing here. Not perfect but fitting the overall theme, TWS know exactly how to pull emotion out of words and musical imagery.
“Overtaken” is up next and is probably one of my favorite songs on the disc. Featuring a physical count off, the band bounces lightly into their groove, utilizing some interesting chords and textures before hitting the first verse. With an almost Ryan Adams vibe, this song has all the right moves. The subject matter is romantic in nature but far from sappy. Choruses are extremely well done, bringing every ounce of feeling into the mix as bass and guitars gently pulse in the background. The middle-eight is simple and uncluttered before heading back into the beautiful ending chorus.
“Bourbon Street Girl” slithers out of the player with clarinet goodness. The subject matter concerns the girl who goes from dancing for nickels and dimes to feed her family with promises of wealth and ease. It ends up not being enough to steal her away, but they try their hardest. Violins squeak New Orleans style as drums pound voodoo rhythms up the backbone. Trumpets take their turn in the back end before clarinets once again join in.
“Walking Back To Jackson” is yet another great tune on this full disc. Acoustic guitars chunk chords on top of clarinet before the band joins in. The subject here is lazy, hazy trekking back down to Jackson. Turning down rides to walk down to Jackson is the way things work around here. Everything has its place in time. More horn work in the bridge pushes this addictive number into its finish. “Walking Back To Jackson” is another top-shelf song that should do quite well for the band.
I’m out of space, but I wanted to mention the disc namesake before I end this. “Never Leaving” is another favorite of mine and a song that should become a favorite of fans. Featuring violins soaring over stiff plucked banjos, stand-up bass and guitars, “Never Leaving” brings back the time-tested subject of unanswered love. TWS have some of the best vocal harmonies I’ve ever heard, and they come to great fruition here. The violin hooks blend perfectly with their urgent vocals and make for a standout track on a great overall disc.
I wish we had more space but I don’t so do yourself a favor and pick up this CD fast. It’s a no-brainer and one of the best this year. Thomas Wesley Stern is a band that continues to break previous barriers set by their own hand, and it’s a wonderful thing to behold. Never Leaving can be purchased digitally or physically ordered on thomaswstern.bandcamp.com.
Dentist – A New Direction
This week’s Shoreworld also features the frenetic pop dalliances of the group Dentist. Formed from the passionate and creative embraces of several popular Asbury Park rock bands, Dentist is the first real opportunity for Emily and Justin Bornemann to ride their wild style of tsunami pop to the Shoreworld beach. The pair had tested medium waters in the band No Wine For Kittens, working through an experimental timeframe and learning the difficult art of noteworthy composition.
Comprised of Emily Bornemann on rhythm guitar, Justin Bornemann on lead, Andy Bova on drums, Nick Kaelblein on bass and Matt Maneri on keys, Dentist take an influential cue from West Coast tube curlers such as Best Coast, Wavves, and The Drums, to name a very select few.
The band is back in the studio and in the midst of working on a brand new record to be released on Little Dickman Records. They have graced stages with the likes of Laura Stevenson, Jeff The Brotherhood, Television, Screaming Females and many other national acts. The band has detailed plans to increase their popularity through touring shortly.
Chris Yaniak from Little Dickman Records sent me a couple of tunes to listen to that detail the direction of Dentist into their next compositional journey. Dentist continues their soiree through the underworld of surf-pop ditties with “Web Of Truth.”
Emily Bornemann’s vocals are buried in miles of reverb, giving her an otherworldly sound as the band chops and grinds alongside. With a voice that mixes the lush, echo-driven force of Kim Deal and the candy-coated delectability of Harriet Wheeler, Emily Bornemann is the quintessential singer for a band such as Dentist. She can ride high over the mix without sounding flat or tired. She also has the gift of being easily recognizable. “Web Of Truth” mixes grungy guitars with fluid bass and solid rhythms to get the point across and it’s all good stuff.
The other tune that was sent to me is called “You Say.” Utilizing a smart backbeat under tube-fueled guitars and bass, “You Say” is yet another reverb-drenched number that shows the band moving into a more solid direction. The opening guitar work adds chorus-like nuances to the song before Emily moves in to add her special style to the overall mix. Verses are solid and steeped in surf world lore. Choruses are addictive and well played. The ending bridge is also an interesting addition with its complex use of chords, riffs, and rhythmic punch.
The album should be finished shortly, and if the rest is anything close to what they’ve demonstrated here today, it will make for a very fresh and invigorating piece of music. In the meantime, Dentist antics can be monitored over at dentistband.com.