January 8, 2004
SNOWDEN S/T EP REVIEW
Snowden are one of the hot new bands from Atlanta. At least, if you believe the internet hype, that is. I have yet to catch them in concert, which is weird. They keep playing The EARL on weekdays, and i don't think i have ever seen them advertised as playing on a weekend. And yet, they get gobs of Album 88 radio play, and that is where i first heard them.
At first listen Snowden seem to have come from the 80's, with chiming guitars, prominent bass riffing, thudding drums, and gaspy, vaguely mopey vocals. But listening closely, the production is much clearer than anything from the 80's. Ah, i thought on first listen, one of the NYC "New Wave Revival Bands". Cool enough, i like that scene. Then suddenly the WRAS DJ comes on and says that this band is from Atlanta, by way of Athens. Weird.
So, a good Atlanta band that i have never seen. Why aren't these people playing out with eNTERTAINME.nt or The Orphins or The Liverhearts? Oh well, it's only a matter of time until i catch them live. And at least they have an EP out, which you can download for free from their website or order the physical CD from StickFigure. There are 5 songs that come on the self-titled EP, and one additional tune on the website.
The music of Snowden is very 80s influenced. Most of the songs feature prominent bass, which often carries a melodic line to counter the chiming guitars or the piano riff. The voice is what really gives it an 80s feel, i think. Vocalist Jordan Jeffares has a slightly deep voice, and his pronunciation is slow and clear, which comes across as vaguely mopey. At times his voice reminds me of Ian McCulloch, The Chameleons vocalist, or the singer in Icicle Works. There is also, at times, a hint of Jason Molina (Songs:Ohia) in the mix, just a hint really. Jeffares has an interesting voice, and i think it works well with the musical accompaniment.
My favorite tune on the EP is Kill the Power, which has a funky keyboard riff, a great beat, and crunchy guitars. It is somewhat typical of the New Wave Revivalist genre (see also: Interpol, eNTERTAINME.nt, My Favorite), but is one of the finest examples of the genre. It starts somewhat slowly with a heavy distorted keyboard riff, then the guitar, drum, and bass come in, and groove along under a faint haze of distortion. It grows and grows, and is consistently catchy. Good News is another rocking tune. It grows nicely from a bed of chiming guitars, funky rhythm, and drums. It blossoms with a lovely wordless vocal bit over the rock out jam at the end of the song. I like that one as well. On the other hand, Victim Card, is a pretty typical New Wave rocker. It's not bad, but it pales in comparison to the other songs on the EP.
Come Around is a slightly less rocking tune. Piano drives this one along languidly, in no real hurry, but backed up by competent bass, drums, and guitar. I guess this is a ballad. At any rate, it's pretty darned good. There are two folkish numbers: Chin Up, built out of sparse acoustic guitar, and Anybody Else, which features a prominent piano melody and the band singing in harmony. Both are nice enough, i suppose, but do not sound as spectacular to me as the other material on the EP.
The EP is very worthwhile, but there is a bonus track available for download off of the Snowden website. It's a cover of the old Zombies classic Time of the Season, and is amazingly cool. Okay, it's a great song in the first place, but they do it very nicely, which just makes it even better. It's built out of silly vocals samples ("chick-chick-ahhhhh" looped as a rhythm element in the background), thudding drums, overdriven bass, and distorted voice. It's kind of faithful to the original, but takes it to a new, noisier place, especially when Snowden drag things out a bit at the end, with extra distortion and longer guitar bits. Very fun.
Overall, i am impressed with Snowden, and have firmly placed them in the list of bands to look for.
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