Spiritual beauty and corporate banking rarely fit together. But this is seemingly what Just Warden projected to do in a realistic level. Core musician of the group Danny Ferraro, quit his coveted position at banking conglomerate Goldman Sachs to release a tour de forced of cascading instrumentation, eclipsing textures, and gorgeous piano arrangements.
High Street Barton Blues is the group’s first full length release, and it is an impressive. The songs manage to imprint a few stylistic pieces in there to a grand effect. There is a bit of Uw2 grandiosity in the group’s sound, though propelled further by the piano than the Edge’s signature guitar work. You can hear it brilliantly textured in the official opening full track on the album, Romie Knows. The percussion is assaulting and pitch perfect, and it keeps the song driving forward with a fast progression.
The one very odd thing is that the vocal work from the band is not as equally bombastic. It is actually rather subdued and placed into the mix in an odd way. It is as if the vocals are a live tack, which makes for an odd juxtaposition against the production of the instruments- loud, crisp, clear, and layered with intention. It is as if the Killers continued making good music into 2012. This is what battle Born should have been like. Or if that reference is too subtle, this is the record a big smart arena rock band needed to make, until Just Walden beat them to the punch- or should I say, beat.
The band is impeccable with their pacing. They manage to squeeze some often calming and organic musical interludes into the mix. They are sometimes instrumental, such as Last Call at the Elgin with its magnificent textures and echoing though distant vocal work in the far background as if an instrument unto its own. And then they are often full bodied songs condensed to a minute and a half, such as Hangman which had every right to be a full track but in its short form it is suitably quaint.
The band tries out some of their indie rock ethos in the captivating Troubled Youth. A mix between Phantogram’s electronics and M83’s hooks and tendency for the perfect soft-loud dynamic, the song is building to something that never comes and it keeps the tension matched with i9ts splendid openness and its hook that is not obnoxiously upbeat- just subtle enough to work oh so well.
The whole thing comes together in an escapade of big flourishes and bravado-infused sensationalism penned from the playbook of U2, indie pop, and Arcade Fire. The group’s theatrics are brash and wide, and their piano work frolics openly and wonderfully. The result is a sonic blast of smart and sophisticated piano driven music- crafted with an intelligent hand.
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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