Rooted in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Nick Cove & The Wandering brings together the careful finesse of the singer/songwriter genre and Cove’s love for ’90s era grunge. Nick Cove & The Wandering creates a dynamic soundscape ranging from quiet and personal refrains to colossal and epic choruses. Joining Cove is keyboardist Joe Mancinelli, and the two create a beautiful array of electronic sounds with natural whimsy. Bassist John Halfpenny and drummer Trevor Kiscadden round out the band, laying down the bedrock of The Wandering’s rhythm section. The group’s debut Harbinger showcases a different approach to songwriting than Cove is typically used to playing. Every song started as a solo acoustic and vocal creation, but as time went on, the songs transformed into something far greater. The album was recorded, mixed and mastered by Taylor Bull at Seventh Wave Studio in Palmyra, Pennsylvania and, on a side note, the band’s Bandcamp site states in all caps “To Be Played At Maximum Volume.”
Beginning the album is “Fog of War” a song that starts off quiet with an acoustic intro and then – bam! – a fury of sound, with heavy distortion and lyrics that suggest a heaviness in life that some have unfortunately experienced. “This is Where I Hide” tells the story of turmoil between family members, a best friend with “track lines on her arm” and the struggle to figure out where you’re going to go to college, let alone figure out how to live your life without going insane. Next up is “Glass Houses” which has got a terrific, rumbling rhythm section between Cove and Kiscadden. The song’s melody, overall structure and backing vocals really pulled me in. This one would be a great contender for the airwaves as a stand-alone single. It just seemed to have all the makings of a great song.
“Oculus” had a more introspective feel to it – lyrically, it sure seemed like it. The cello, played by Matt Miller, and piano/keys by Joe Mancinelli were the perfect additions to this song, I thought. The words are abstract to some degree but offer some clues as to what it’s about. Maybe you can figure this one out? The piano makes another appearance on “Rain” made possible by Athena Hiotis. This number had more of a post-grunge feel, something more like from the band Live, but then again, the ending parts were mighty explosive and dramatic, played like a classic grunge song when that genre was king.
The next tune takes a look at suicide – “The Year That Comes Around” speaks of an anniversary that brings back memories that the songwriters would perhaps like to forget. Cove plays this one solo most of the way through. Then his guitar playing gets more intense and forceful mid-way, as does his voice – I mean, whoa, a powerful statement from beginning to end. To end the album, “Tower of Babel” adds in cello, played again by Matt Miller and a full, dynamic range of sounds. This one had a middle eastern feel as well, something akin to what Page and Plant did post-Zeppelin, but with much harder edges like a metal rock song and heavy grunge – so I’d say more like Soundgarden in that regard. Another fantastic rocker.
All in all, I thought Harbinger was a solid album – this Lancaster quartet has got good chemistry. Bringing together different genres to create a sound and style all their own is a good strategy to have next on album number two.
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