CD Review – Shortwave – The Skyline Verses
Released: 8 February 2011 (EMI Music)
by Jade Sperry
Anthems of heartbreak and triumph that tug at the heartstrings and speak to the masses. New-wave indie-rock that is smart and sexy. Pulsating dance-rock and contemplative ballads. Toronto’s own Shortwave have managed to capture it all on their debut full-length album The Skyline Verses, available February 8 via EMI Music / MB Distribution.
With seasoned producer Byron Kent Wong (The Crystal Method, Beck) at the helm, The Skyline Verses blends together vintage analogue warmth with a forward leaning attitude, creating an album that is as contemporary and immediate as it is reminiscent and familiar. It is also the long awaited follow up from a band that has recently shared the stage with an eclectic range of artists from Cracker to The Waking Eyes.
The five members of Shortwave have been together for over five years and are brothers Ry and Sager Johnson (guitar), who grew up in Toronto with Devin Jannetta (drums), forming various bands and sharing stages with the likes of Big Sugar, Junkhouse and Super Friendz. With the addition of long time friend, Cary Parker, the band’s unique family dynamic was rounded out creating an environment where ideas are explored and honed as they seamlessly shift tempos, layer harmonies and dive into the sonic vastness of keyboards and effects.
Shortwave released their debut EP Breaker/Breaker (2007) and shortly after that, they received a fan letter from Grammy winning producer Malcolm Burn (Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop). Shortwave found themselves in New York recording their self titled sophomore EP in rapid time – one week. Several tracks from Shortwave (2008) received airplay on 102.1 The Edge (Toronto) and CBC Radio (Canada). They were also featured on the first episode of AUX TV’s Master Tracks. Their self-produced video for the single “Stereo” received rotation on MuchMusic and was also a featured video on MySpace.
- The Sublime
- Horror Show
- Your Face Is A Mirror
- It’s Time
- Louis L’Amour
- Maybe Science
- Sea Legs
- Little Men
With this new collection of songs, I can hear the progression this band has achieved in just over a 4 year period. And with this kind of hard work, it will pay off in the long run of Shortwave. “Esther” is the kind of song that has a great hook, good melodies and all members of the band are locked into each other from the get go. The chord structure is simple but has a good overall effect which the melody and hook call for in this song. Lyrically the song is speaking of wanting to be with a partner and exploring intimacy with one person. It sounds to me like someone in need of being saved by an angel. The chorus and bridges have effective time changes and the infectious overall sound makes for a great dance rock song. “The Sublime” is this writers’ favorite song. The hook and melody are really radio friendly, the vocals are perfectly matched to the music and the band are playing this song as one solid unit. Although the structure of the song itself and chord structure are simple they use it to their advantage. The chorus is dreamy and trippy and makes for a nice break in the song melody. “Louie L’Armour” has a gritty and dirty feel to it and is based somewhat in a blues chord structure. The bass line is sick and funky at the same time. Vocally well done especially in the harmonies. The drumming is shaman-like and the Hammond Organ gives the song a real classic 70’s feel. That is a lot going on in one song and gives you a good look into how good this band is overall. On the lyrical side, it speaks of some kind of apocalypse complete with black horses and their riders, burning cities to the ground and the kind of destruction we see from the recent events in Japan. “Stereo” starts out softly with a piano line followed by the drums. The vocals are soft but speak of being on the road and missing that special someone. A progressive modern ballad done well. The only thing is that again it’s built on a simple but effective chord structure but what gives the song its weight is the layering effect of keyboard and piano lines. The harmonies are beautifully sung and the emotion of the song gives you a forlorn but positive feeling.
Other solid mentions are the songs “Motown”, “Maybe Science” and “Horror Show”. This CD is mixed, mastered and performed well and is an overall good package of music. Fans of progressive alternative rock with blues, classic and psychedelia rock will appreciate the simplicity and passion of the music presented here.
Video – The Sublime