John McDonough has delivered an unforgettable concept EP, We’ll Answer The Call. Drawing on the incredible story of Joe Rantz and the Washington Huskies rowing program’s historic gold medal win at the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, McDonough has crafted a stunning sonic experience.
The instrumentation is a tinker’s dream, beginning with a whisper of an acoustic guitar to build on its momentum, soon joined by a mesmerizing piano to carry it to new heights. McDonough’s voice is just the right fit for this journey, adding a comforting warmth to the experience. He has a clear command of his lyrics and is a truly gifted storyteller.
The EP moves through a collection of powerful songs, each with its own significant weight. From the clandestine “Shooting Star” to the inspiring “Among the Stars” and the ambitious title track, McDonough reveals a different side of the gripping story. While every song is different, they all fit together to create an EP that is a must-listen.
We’ll Answer The Call is a remarkable testament to the power of perseverance and a reminder that hope is just around the corner. McDonough’s remarkable songwriting and storytelling skills bring this inspiring tale to life in a way that will stay with you long after the EP is over. This is a must-listen experience that should not be missed.
Singer/Songwriter Robert LaRoche Releases New Music
I’m no stranger to Robert LaRoche’s songwriting. Longtime songwriter, solo artist, and frontman for The Sighs, LaRoche enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a songwriter’s songwriter who commands respect from his peers and has a devoted following stretching back years. I approached his new solo release Forevermore with excitement. My faith in his abilities proved well-placed as LaRoche serves up ten songs rich with the accumulated experiences of a lifetime and brimming with the same unique talents that have secured his place in the modern indie music scene. For those familiar with him, Forevermore is a reaffirmation of his gifts while, for newcomers, it gives them an excellent place to start their discovery of his work.
Acoustic guitar is integral to this album and “Steal Your Heart” announces that from the first. This isn’t a folky singer-songwriter effort, however, as LaRoche’s decades-long experience fronting bands serves him well here and elsewhere. It’s a full-throated ensemble performance replete with satisfying changes and a lyric that veers between aching affection and borderline heartbreak. Zonder Kennedy’s guitar solo puts a fiery exclamation point on “Burn That Kingdom Down”, the album’s second song, but LaRoche’s lyrics are equally impressive. He writes and sings as if this were one of those songs that took a week or so to write and two decades to live. The sense of stakes is audible from beginning to end.
“Forevermore” is a strong title song. LaRoche aims for more of a mood piece with this cut and the diverse instrumentation he utilizes for the collection surfaces here in a pronounced way. He frames the unattainable object of LaRoche’s desire at the heart of this song in tasteful poetic lyrics that he’s well suited for conveying with his voice. Vocal harmonies play an important role in fleshing out many of Forevermore’s songs and sweeten the obvious vulnerability underlying a song such as “Safter Inside”. It adopts the same semi-brisk pace as many of the release’s other songs but never feels rushed.
He serves up a nuanced song about lost love with “Temporary Virtue” and mature listeners will appreciate his unique take on the subject. There’s heartache and regret galore throughout this lyric. LaRoche and the sensitive arrangement conspire well to communicate those emotions. It lays his heart bare in a more direct fashion, at least musically than some of the preceding songs while being no less effective. The rueful “Traitorous Heart” gains a lot of traction from the contrasting laid back character of its arrangement and LaRoche’s scornful lyrics. He lays out betrayal and undermining behavior in a matter of fact manner. There are hints of the underlying resentment, however, provided by the song’s electric guitar passages.
This is a thoroughly successful release from beginning to end. Robert LaRoche deserves fulsome praise for his ability to write about a subject as old as song itself, love, in such an individualistic fashion. He isn’t remaking the songwriting wheel with Forevermore, but he pours old wine into new bottles with a skillfulness that deserves our applause and attention.
Alternative Band PRETTY AWKWARD New “Get Weird” Album Is A Stand-Out Debut
The eleven songs on PRETTY AWKWARD’s Get Weird range from reflections on personal experiences to anthemic crowd-pleasers that will resonate with young and old alike. Veteran songwriters and musicians Nicholas Wiggins and Austin Held recruited a first-class cadre of collaborators to flesh out their musical vision and they play as a band rather than a glorified solo vehicle for either man. The stylistic dexterity evident throughout the album likewise coheres rather than sounding like a mishmash of conflicting aims. PRETTY AWKWARD’s songs sound like the results of an outfit that began the recording process knowing exactly what they hoped to achieve and clearing every hurdle with room to spare.
You can hear their confident self-assurance in the album’s opener. “Hang Out” presents listeners with a scenario that’s easily relatable to the band’s target audience but, likewise, cuts across age demographics. It’s youthful, without question, but even older listeners of a certain type can remember staying up into the wee hours intoxicated with friends and/or romantic partners. It’s a song portraying the tightly knit confederacies of friendship in a unique way and the lightly atmospheric arrangement helps bring it to unusual life.
PRETTY AWKWARD continues an impressive run to open the album with its next two tracks. “Misfits” is one of the release’s best numbers and a bonafide anthemic gem. It gains much of its power from the deliberate scaffolding that the band erects for the performance; its steady escalatory pace culminates in a soaring chorus. “Get Weird” is a memorable title song that relies much more on atmospherics than the other ten cuts. The band’s command of manipulating light and shadow excels here and Held delivers one of his best vocal performances.
The simmering and often effervescent pop of “Bad Habit” opens with a brief snippet of piano before segueing into the main body of the song. Alternative music fans will latch onto the slinky percussion driving the tune and it gives the track an irresistibly stylish veneer. “Castle Walls” is an especially inspired songwriting clinic that turns the band once again towards the anthemic. They’ve hit upon their idiosyncratic language, however, and write about self-realization and seizing the day with undeniable flair. It’s one of Get Weird’s most impassioned moments.
“Woozy” is one of the album’s marquee cuts. If you want to put forth one song out of the eleven that sounds and feels truly representative of PRETTY AWKWARD’s gifts, then this is it. Each of their cuts has a clear subject matter that relates to everyday life, and this is no different. This pop-influence romp about a dysfunctional yet addictive relationship crisscrosses multiple genres without ever disorienting listeners and has an entertaining melody you won’t soon forget.
They end the album on a melancholy yet ultimately victorious note. “Burn” definitely embraces a “better to burn out than fade away” spirit, but listeners will come away from this sure that PRETTY AWKWARD won’t be fading out anytime soon. It’s an invigorating and thoughtful tune illustrating their range better than other already outstanding songs on Get Weird. This album deserves your attention and more as they’ve written and recorded one of 2023’s best Alt.Pop collections.