In a five-day span of recording back in 2012, and later a five-year duration of mixing and mastering a full-length album, Blake Kandah and his friends have unlocked a treasure trove of wonderful sounds on Love Letter Atlantic. Pop-rock flavors from the ‘60s, to jazz, instrumentals and acoustic folk-rock, it’s all in there – a little bit of something for everyone.
The first three tunes have a definite Beatles/Beau Brummels/Dave Clark Five thing going on. I would dare say even a sprinkling of the Motown sound can be heard on track two “Symphony for the Selfish” for those who recognize that signature sound. Blake and friends do indeed cover a Beatles song “No Reply” but my thoughts are that their version here is a more mellow take on the lesser known classic and the lyrics come across even more lonely than the Fab Four’s version. Covering any song from the band that laid the groundwork for four piece pop-rock bands until the end of time is no small feat, Blake has done well to put his own blend of sounds into this number.
“Run Brother Run” sounded to me like a Dead Milkmen cover and because of just that it sounded like the Dead Milkmen. Not that that’s a bad thing; their stuff is great but there is a wackiness to the bass and drums and it shows on this song. If I called the shots to cut one song, this would probably be it. Tracks five, six and seven are simply brilliant! “Jazz for Chuck” had me thinking a lot as to what kind of time signature was on this – I’m still not sure. It’s also the first of two instrumentals. It was refreshing to hear a band play just their instruments and I loved the minor chord at the end, nice touch! Track six “Absentee” has a more lounge jazz feel, like something from the ‘70s. Kind of what Al Steward might have wrote (“The Year of the Cat” or “Time Passages”). Track seven “Arpeggio in D Minor” has got that lounge jazz shuffle to it as well with lovely intricate sounds, warmer toned, deadened snare beat and beautiful vocals from Sarah Marker. It breaks into a faster, hipper beat midway and yes, it ends on a minor chord – loved it!
“Sit Me Down” has a mix of funk and jazz fusion, at least that was my impression listening the first time through and the second instrumental – daring! The two guitars playing together at the end were gorgeous to hear. Tracks nine, ten, eleven and twelve round out the remaining songs with an acoustic focus. “Meet Me in the Bathroom” a Strokes cover has strong acoustic rhythm and lead accompaniment which sounded great. “These Folks” is another acoustically driven song with haunting backing vocals. The last track “Far Off” starts of acoustically then a driving beat drops in, crescendos, and then drops out which made for a very interesting arrangement. Excellent guitar picking as well made this song a great choice to end the album.
“Foggy Gray Morning” is where I think Blake’s “sound” really takes off and frankly the other acoustic numbers are where this group shines most. They also took the lounge-jazz sound with the aforementioned songs without blatantly copying any one band or songwriter – they really did a fantastic job on these songs. But “Foggy Gray Morning” hit right to my heart that I immediately had to play it again. Personally, I would love to hear more songs like this and maybe it’s because there aren’t enough songs with mandolin these days, apart from bluegrass. The guitar solo effort in the end does overpower the mandolin just a bit, so perhaps a better balance between the two is needed.
Kandah and company have managed to cover a lot of ground quite convincingly throughout Love Letter Atlantic, so much so that I think they have a good enough handle on the various styles to record more albums, if they so choose. Question is, what genre of music do they like best?
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