Desperate Measures is available at:
Los Angeles, U.S.A.
OVER the next couple of days I am reviewing music by U.S. actors.
Whether there is a mutual connection (reading my blog) or something else, I have been contacted by two separate high-profile agents. It has been a while since I have been in U.S. waters to review some great music. Concentrating on U.K.-born acts, it is a relief to travel across the pond and discover a new band to my ears. Before I introduce the featured act, I am reminded about U.S. music- and particularly that of L.A. – and Indie-Rock artists. Being ensconced in the U.K., it is always hard being made aware of U.S. music and what is happening over there. There are a lot of blogs and reviewers out there, but unless you read all of them, it is hard to get a true idea of what is out there. A compartmentalised and wide-ranging industry, music comes to you in dribs and drabs. Without my blog it is debatable whether I would have discovered half the music I review. Few can deny there are a lot of great British bands around, although for my money, there are even more top U.S. bands around. Having assessed everyone from The Falling Birds (New York) to The Open Feel (L.A.), I have been exposed to a great wealth of terrific music. Today I am tackling another band from L.A. which is an area that is among music’s most prosperous goldmines. I have mentioned in previous posts- although feel compelled to mention again- how fervent and fertile L.A. is as a music hub. I have never been before, yet know how hot California is right now. Perhaps there are better communities and media outlets- that make it easier for musicians to connect- or just the natural atmosphere that inspires such great music. It is not just the range of sounds available but the consistency. If you want Hard-Rock or Metal then there’s a band for you. If you fancy something sunny and Pop-hooked then you are sorted. There needs to be some sort of website to house all the great Californian music out there so people like me- and listeners too- can get a grasp on what is out there. Looking at The Slightlys (my featured act) it reminds me of the Indie-Rock acts that are out there. In this country the genre seems to be faltering somewhat. Over the past year there have been few Indie-Rock bands that have stuck in the mind. Maybe it is one of music’s most tricky genres- when it comes to being unique and stand-out- so it is good to see some U.S. acts injecting some passion and originality into the genre. Before I continue on my point, let me introduce today’s featured act:
“Pop n’ Roll band The Slightlys, has a penchant for insistent, hook driven, unapologetically catchy songs. Led by songwriter and frontman Finneas O’Connell (who found success as an actor with reoccurring roles on Glee and Modern Family and in movies such as Bad Teacher), the band consists of four teenagers born and raised in Los Angeles California. The group met each other at a battle of bands at Club Nokia in 2012 while each playing in different bands with all losing the contest that year. In 2014 they came together to form The Slightlys and took home first place in that same competition. The Slightlys soon released their debut single “Superhero”, which attracted widespread attention leading to a dedicated fanbase as well as offers to play such high profile festivals as The Warped Tour and The Twilight Concert Series along with iconic venues such as Club Nokia and The House of Blues. In 2014, The Slightlys returned to the studio to record their debut EP with famed producer/engineer Eric Palmquist (Bad Suns, Night Riots, HUNNY). The result is a collection of power pop anthems with melodic guitar riffs, catchy choruses and a driving insatiable rhythm section rarely heard in rock music today. The first single “Desperate Measures” is an angsty instant pop anthem featuring radio-ready hooks and close vocal harmonies. “A Warning” features O’Connell’s rich soulful tinged vocals over insatiably danceable drums. All in all songwriter Finneas O’Connell hopes his songs “inspire people to never stop working on the things they love and to remember that although being patient sucks, you’ll need to be patient if you want things to turn out right.” EP is set for release in early 2016
The Slightlys is:
Finneas O’Connell: Lead Vocals / Guitar
Darius Dudley II: Violen / Bass
David Marinelli: Drums
Robby Fitzpatrick: Lead Guitars”.
Whether you have seen Glee or Bad Teacher- in which lead Finneas O’Connell has appeared- or not, the music will not fall within predictable margins. Going into reviewing I was expecting something Glee-tinged- and not being a fan of the show it was a relief that The Slightlys have much more credibility. Although the Indie-Rock sounds of The Slightlys is miles away from Glee’s endless sunshine and sugar, the music they play (The Slightlys) is infused with plenty of optimism and upbeat. A lot of Indie-Rock still plays on the side of angst and endless riffs. Too many acts are looking at the likes of Foo Fighters and replicating their sounds. If not Foo Fighters, then there is still too much familiarity in the music coming out. I listen to Indie/Indie-Rock bands and can always hear too much of other artists. The mood tends to be quite downbeat and the compositions quite suffocated and tense. Occasionally I will happen upon something more open and breezy- with a hard-edged skin and sense of passion. The Slightlys have a little bit of Sunshine-Pop to their music which ensures proceedings are never too heavy-handed and foreboding. The close kinship and tight musicianship results in music with catchiness and memorability. Desperate Measures is the latest release from the L.A. band and has been gaining appreciative feedback in the U.S. Few of us in the U.K. will be familiar with the band so it is great to introduce The Slightlys here. What the L.A. band does is inject some quirky lyrical touches with teenage vernacular and something youthful and cutting-edge. Their language and songwriting stands out from their peers and the compositions are filled with energy and commitment. I hope the boys come play London and give crowds here a chance to discover something new. We have few bands like The Slightlys here so it would be a breath of fresh air to hear them play.
On their Facebook page, The Slightlys have quite a list of influences:
“The Beatles, Cage The Elephant, Two Door Cinema Club, The Foo Fighters, The Airborne Toxic Event, My Chemical Romance, Arctic Monkeys, Green Day, Blur, The White Stripes, Imagine Dragons, Muse”.
If you are a fan of the above, you will find much to love within The Slightlys. There is a mix of The Beatles’ ‘60s Power-Pop together with Imagine Dragons’ sunshine and a little of Green Day’s kick and snarl. It would be unfair to compare the L.A. band to any listed above as The Slightlys have their own sound and direction. What the band does is combine some flavours of the ‘60s and ‘90s; tie together some modern-day Indie and a sound of the L.A. Indie-Rock scene. The band is a new endeavor so it is hard to compare Desperate Measures with any other track. The initial signs are very positive and there are no early weaknesses or lack of originality. The best way to assess The Slightlys is on Desperate Measures alone and see where they will head from here. I know the band are planning their debut album and putting together the moves and motifs for that. Whether there will be 10-11 Desperate Measures-esque numbers- or whether the band will expand their sound out- across the album it is yet to be seen. What we can expect is a consistent energy and ambition across the record. Establishing themselves as one of the best young bands coming out of L.A., I am sure a future album will cement their claim and showcase artists with big ambitions and intentions.
Desperate Measures begins with a nice drum roll and kick that leads to a breezy guitar sound. Quite an urgent and catchy introduction, the song spares no time in getting off to the races. Eliciting the sound of sunshine and the open road, you find yourself captivated. Vibrating strings and punchy percussion mingle to build the mood and atmosphere brilliantly. An instant grab, the song gets you invested and interested. Mixing some Hrad-Rock slam with something more Pop-infused, you wonder where the song will go next. When our lead approaches the microphone, the early words paint vivid pictures. The words “You got me up and at ‘em/Got me jones-ing for your touch/I can’t stand, I can’t stand without you/You fit me like a crutch” paint pictures of pure sentiment and romance. Never overplayed or saccharine, it is an original slant on a well-trodden topic. The lyrics look at love and obsession but it is done in a very particular way. Whilst a lot of bands employ clichés and vague expressions, The Slightlys delve deeper to project something different. Our hero attests- when looking at his girl of choice- she has him in a daze. Like a drug in his bloodstream, that passion and excitement is tangible. Backed by a river-flow guitar jaunt, the song does not drop its energy and sense of motivation. The early words spare no chances and go in hard and strong. There is little room for ambiguity and misinterpretation as our man is in the midst of a very powerful love. By the time the chorus comes around- “These desperate measures/You wear me out so well/These desperate measures/Keep torturing myself/For you and no one else”- that degree of longing and love is explosive. The vocal keeps on rising and becoming more pressing as the lyrics progress. The chorus is that intended to inspire sing-alongs and group chorusing. What you get is something full-bodied and hot-bloodied indeed. The band unites in song and ensures each word gets inside the skull. It seems the central romance is causing fatigue and confusion in our front-man. Whether the duo is united at the moment or it is a flirtation, you can hear that need and desire in the vocal. The song itself- up until this point at the least- will find an audience in lovers of Indie-Rock and Pop. Whereas the introduction was a sharp and anthemic thing, the song soon mutates into something more Pop-influenced and sunny. By melting those two genres together, you get something that will draw in the fans of mainstream Pop whilst interesting those who prefer their music harder and heavier. By the time the second verse rolls around, more of the story is revealed. The wording puts you in mind of a teenage tryst: something school-based and innocent to say the least. It seems the friends of family (of the lovers) are unaware and kept in the dark. Maybe an ill-advised or uncertain bond, things are being kept secret. The drug-like addiction of the passion- tied to the secrecy and tip-toeing being done- is causing pain and heartache. The words “Count the days, I count the days and seconds/’Til we can stop playing pretend/Now you got me shakin’/Got me takin’ in too much” add to that tangible desire and teenage lust. Maybe appealing to a younger audience sector- aiming for the pre-teen market- it is good to see love and relations given a new spin. Away from the anxieties and dark sentiments of Indie-Rock love- and the subjects the bands usually tread- here there is something more positive and hopeful. There is a little bit of Imagine Dragons in the song- especially when it comes to the chorus- and that bonhomie and chorusing is hard to ignore. By this stage in the song, the secret has not been unveiled although our lead does not seem too suffocated. It is the third (and final) verse that showcases the band’s lyrical quirks and individuality. If you assess its words- “I’ll join your cult, I’ll drink your Kool-Aid/I’ll break my back, whatever you say/Walk ’til my feet start to bleed and just keep on walking/I’ll dye my hair, I’ll change my name/I’ll play along, just teach me your game/You don’t play fair, I’m aware but I don’t care I’m not stopping”- there are clear images and humour to be found. It is evident our man is infatuated and there is no turning back. Most bands tend to go for boring and lifeless images yet The Slightlys ensure their lyrics get inside the mind and make the listener smile along. Backing and augmenting the lyrics is a guitar-bass-drum combination that ensures plenty of punch and life. Emphasising that need and desire, the composition never relents or loses focus. By the time of the final chorus introduction, the band throws in some echoed vocals and vibrating strings. Ensuring that tension and lust raises the blood pressure, the final moments are dedicated to getting the listener hooked and fascinated. By the end stages you begin to wonder whether things worked out or whether the secret is being kept. It is a bit of a mystery and cliffhanger- perhaps something that will be resolved in future songs- but it sees our lead lays his heart on the line. Bringing the song to a close and that energy and excitement never fades and relents.
It is a real band effort at work throughout Desperate Measures. O’Connell provides a passionate and committed vocal that makes the lyrics sound essential and fully convincing. Perhaps drawing in his acting work, the performance comes across as very real and genuine. Making sure every sentiment and lyric is dealt with appropriately, you get a real gamut of emotions. Dudley II provides excellent bass guidance- that blends well with the guitar of O’Connell- and it creates its own degree of rhythm and melody. With Marinelli providing ample and prominent drum beats, you get a primal and real heartbeat. Making sure the energy levels and fascination never relents. Fitzpatrick provides energetic and spirited lead guitars which give the song a vitality and rush. Together the band is tight and insistent throughout. It is perhaps the lyrics that provide the biggest slice of intrigue. Mixing teenage ideals with something more mature, it is a song that tackles romance and seduction in a new way. Many listeners will be able to appreciate and understand the themes being explored throughout Desperate Measures– it is a song that appeals and aims to all listeners.
Having been recently introduced to The Slightlys it has been great hearing the U.S. band. As I said up-top, it is hard to encounter and assess every great band coming out of America. The media tends to focus on home-grown sounds and does not really cast its net too far away. When you discover one U.S. band, it is often easy enough to seek-out and find comparable acts. When I reviewed Brooklyn’s The Falling Birds- who are currently playing in the U.K. – I connected with some of their social media bands/friends and discovered more great music. In the same manner, The Slightlys will have some great band friends and acts they support. It is a slow way of discovering music but is the way social media works. Before I finish up it is worth mentioning Indie-Rock acts of today and the music in the U.S. I opened by stating how stale and uninspired a lot of Indie-Rock is today. Too many bands are fixated with sounding like their heroes. I have heard too many bands that replicate Foo Fighters and Biffy Clyro. Too many acts rip-off Artic Monkeys and their ilk. If musicians want to survive in this industry then they need to be original and themselves. It is human nature to be inspired by musicians although that should not come at the expense of identity and personality. Those acts that separate themselves aside and provide something fresh are those that stick in the mind. The Slightlys have a little bits of other acts in their music is unique enough to stand aside from their heroes and influences. L.A. is producing some great acts right now and 2015 has been a bumper year for the city. Maybe it is the Californian sun or the hustle-and-bustle of the city. Perhaps there are more opportunities over there but it seems the U.S. is edging ahead of the U.K. when it comes to the band market. There seems to be more originality and freedom there. I shall leave things assessing The Slightlys who have an exciting next year ahead of them. Following the release of Desperate Measures the boys are heading into the studio to continue work on their debut album. It will be exciting to see what the boys come up with and what direction they take. Desperate Measures has a sunny feel and great hooks; lyrics that mix teenage thoughts with something distinctly Californian. There is a distinct accent and geography to the song and the track could easily soundtrack a show like Glee. That is not meant as an insult- not being a big lover of the show- but there is optimism and quirk that could score a Glee scene for sure. I guess a lot of critical eyes and thought will look towards Glee and Bad Teacher- with O’Connell’s links with those shows- but you should separate the music and the acting. A lot of actors have fronted bands, and if history is any indicating of quality, you wouldn’t expect a lot from The Slightlys. Luckily that is not the case here and what we have is a group that promises a lot and is a definite name to watch. Music is lining up its quarterstaff for the charge into 2016 and we should all be aware of the big names to watch. I have had a hard time seeing which U.K. bands are worth watching: it is a lot easier when it comes to the U.S. and the major acts to watch. The future is ahead of The Slightlys and although they have just begun their careers. We shall see where the boys are headed and what they have in store. It would be nice for them to come to the U.K. and play some dates here- that is if they can whip some funds together- as there will be a definite demand here. It is hard to mix some sunny Pop with harder Indie and make it sound credible and original. The Slightlys have a natural charm and urgency that makes you root for them; their music translates through music boundaries and has universality to it. It is only left for me to point you towards Desperate Measures and ensure you check the song out. One of the freshest and most unique songs of 2015 it is guaranteed to blow away cobwebs and leave a smile on your face. When it is all said and done, what else do you really want from music? It seems the L.A. band have a very…
SPECIAL recipe indeed.
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