Blanker has been the music outlet for John Norwood, the former front man of the New York City indie rock group Upstate Escape since its disbanding in 2014. Norwood performs all instrumentation and handles the engineering and production of his albums –Scare City is his third release. The album was recorded and mixed in a 500 square-foot Brooklyn apartment using an RME Babyface Pro and Reaper as the DAW. Mastering was done through LANDR (an online mastering service). Electric guitars and bass were recorded direct using AMT preamps. Norwood give his latest the descriptive tagline – “Five floors up and underground.” He also says that “there’s a certain irony to being stranded in a city whose singular most attractive quality – the endless opportunity for human interaction – abruptly becomes a liability.” This refers to the pandemic in early 2020. Norwood suddenly found himself relegated to a 500 square-foot, fifth-floor walk-up apartment in Brooklyn that he shares with his girlfriend.Scare City is inspired by the stripped-down experience of pandemic living, and with no access to a practice space or recording facility, Norwood found himself writing songs that were equal parts silly and heartfelt, surreal and literal.
Over the following year, he worked this collection of songs into what would become the album. Styles include alt rock and synth pop, staying true to Norwood’s DIY ethos. Although the album is unrefined and not at all polished, it more than makes up for with heart and creativity.
“Vikings” opens up the album with a funky beat and modern-day lyrics about pillaging a city to watch it burn. Figuratively speaking that is. Heavy on the ride cymbal, and fuzz guitars - nice and crunchy. “Last In/First Out” has old school rock sensibilities, and a style that says late ‘70s/early ‘80s New York. Next is “Twenty-Three” – a lighter flavored, reggae like tune about a chance encounter with someone at a bar that never quite happened. “Lightpost” is a cool, mysterious, sounding tune. It’s got a soulful, smoky quality to it and some excellent guitar textures as well. “Nah” offers the listener a pop/indie rock style and an all too familiar scenario of not going to a party for various reasons – the time it starts is too late, it’s not my scene and it’s just overall lame. The next tune should give you a double take – “A Fool and His Data are Quickly Separated” clearly has punk influence. I wouldn’t say it’s like the traditional hard-core stuff. More like if early punk-ish Police paired up with a ‘90s thrash rock band. The next track is the album’s title. “Scare City” is another one of Blanker’s smooth and mysterious songs. The bass and guitar melody are fantastic – I loved it. The dynamic between the verses and chorus was the real highlight here. I would recommend listening to this one for sure.
Next up is “Man O’ War” and it features an awesome bass to drum rhythm and an overall groovy vibe. Not sure what Norwood was saying lyrically, but I liked this one, too. “Wielders of the Company Card” is a humorous tune. I think the words either describe schmoozing with the higher ups in your company at some bar or catching up with old friends after they find out that you’ve “made it big.” A lot of business-y suit and tie talk imbedded here. The last track is “All Saints” and it offers some more great crunchy guitar action – heavy on the guitar. The words suggest turning one’s back on the church after discovering that religious traditions just are not working anymore.
I would say overall, Blanker’s Scare City had a great cohesive style, showcasing some moodier old school sounds with newer modern ones. Despite the artist stating the album is “unrefined” – it fooled me, as I thought it was well produced.
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook