Just in time for outdoor festivals season, I get the The Womps with their new album Zlatan! across my desk this week. They have a big stage folk jam band sound that certainly has a summery twist to it. As soon as I heard it I could hear the crowd and feel the sunshine on my face. Interesting sound out of Boston and an album title with a very interesting backstory. Did you know that the Swedish Language Council created the word "Zlatanera" for famed soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovic? I sure as hell didn’t. Apparently it means to dominate and this is where the album's title comes from. That right there is a fun fact, and points to The Womps for indulging one of my favorite hobbies of learning fun factoids.
The music is great, the composition is definitely along those symphonic movement lines. The string work both guitar and otherwise is incredible - same goes for the vocal work. The overall craftsmanship is filled with love and good ole fashioned elbow grease, and it is to be commended. Finding a signature sound in this genre is tricky. There were lots of moments where this album just fell a little flat in terms of standing out from the crowd. An example of this was "Anthem Of My Age" which incorporated all the beautifully rustic folk and Americana elements, however it failed to pull away from an all too familiar thread. "Atlantis" was one of those tracks that threw me. I was not expecting that soulful intro with the vocalist to work. I loved its darkness and it quickly became one of my favorite tracks on the album. I think one of their biggest triumphs was "Head North." It was here that they managed to find a potent blend of the genre interests and distinguish themselves.
The production is fantastic. It conveys that big stage presence and highlights all the delicious improvisation. Lots of ingredients in this album, all hand picked with care. It would be a shame if they weren't properly given their due. Luckily the hands behind the mixing and mastering found the mythical sweet spot. Zlatan! has all the tender loving care put into it that any star quality artist would have.
Fun fact, the instruments were recorded on tape before being fed to Pro Tools. Meanwhile, the vocals were done digitally. They made great strides to ensure this seam was not poking out or puckering in any way; this was smooth sailing. It is the mark of a good production team that I was given such a good taste of that live experience that I am determined to see them live for myself. I have no doubt in my mind I would get bang for my buck seeing this crew live.
I think The Womps is well on their way to cultivating a doting and loving fan base. They translate all their good energy and passion into hard work and solid results. I think they have a nice broad net they can cast on rock music fans and I cannot wait to be one of those snobs saying "I reviewed them before they were cool."
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