On/Off Reset is the debut EP from the alternative rock band University Drive. Based in Scranton, PA, singer/songwriter Edward Cuozzo started the band while working on what he thought would be a solo project. His collaborations with Mike Flaherty, Steve Martin and John Husosky worked out so well that they went on to form a band and release their debut EP through Flightless Records. The album is a combination of fast-paced rock sounds and softer more melodic tracks. The complex lyrics and sometimes gentle harmonies reminded me a little of Band of Horses although the overall sound was original yet somewhat mainstream.
The first track “You Won’t See It” was an impressive start to the album. With high production value and a broad range of sound and arrangement, I was instantly intrigued. Cuozzo’s lead vocals showcase a broad range and a soft falsetto that takes the edge off the fast paced guitars and turn the sound into something accessible for all musical tastes. “Only In The Way” gets darker and more intense with a dramatic vocal in the chorus. The rock vibe is fierce and up close and personal and continues with “Distance.”
“Safe and Quiet” is where the album takes a turn. The slower paced song has soft vocals and the lyrics take on a more intimate feeling. “Sinking” has a more stripped down vibe and you can hear the quality in Cuozzo’s voice more distinctly. The lyrics depict self-reflection and the aggression we heard in the first part of the album is replaced with pensiveness.
I think the star of the album is “Arms Criss Crossed.” I listened to it three times before continuing on to the rest of the album. Again the vocals are soft and understated with a genuine vulnerability. The lyrics explain the stubbornness of not giving up on the idea of someone, of not wanting to let go of something you once had even though it’s not obtainable in the same context anymore. The instrumental accompaniment perfectly matches the tone of the vocals. It’s a nice lead into “I Know I Know” which is ambient and poetic with more of a focus on piano. You get the sense that it’s a transitional track in the evolving mood of the album.
The next couple of songs are more upbeat and easy going with catchy lyrics and melodies. The title track “On/Off Reset” goes back to the rock sound of the start of the album with heavy guitar and drums. The album ends with “Grace,” which is pretty and melodic with haunting guitar repetition that makes it a compelling end to the album.
On/Off Reset is a striking debut. It isn’t lacking in anything, its sound is complete and well thought out. There were several “hits” that stood out to me and I could see this album competing with a lot of the current rock lineups on today’s radio. I definitely will be looking out for University Drive in the future.
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