The duo of Adam Willey (guitar/lead vocals) and Ryan Donaldson (percussion, backing vocals) aka Waves Upon Us released an impressive four-song EP entitled Tsunami. It built the foundation for their debut album Calamity & Rebirth. Waves Upon Us move forward with this album in terms of emotional resonance, song structure and versatility.
Calamity & Rebirth is a broad concept album about how the trials of life shape us and how we can overcome adversity. A majority of the songs feel like a peek inside someone's journal about their problems and tribulations. Topics such as the adverse effects of prescription medication and insomnia are lamented as first hand accounts. They are confessional statements that still seek resolution.
The album starts with a brief but effective instrumental track entitled “Calamity.” It starts off melancholy with acoustic guitar and sparse piano. The song begins sounding like something like Kansas but transforms into sounding like “Cherry Blossom Girl” from Air when the percussion kicks in.
“Unforgiving Tango” is an upbeat, festive song. The acoustic guitar, Djembe, bass and vocals are plenty to keep the energy up and the song has a Rusted Root type vibe. “Unforgiving Tango” may feel optimistic and hopeful but the lyrics are quite nihilistic and concern the transitory nature of our existence. He sings, “One minute it seems as if everyone you love is doing fine. The terror begins as everyone starts to drop just like flies. Strokes. Heart disease. Car accidents. And STDs. Nothing ever stays the same, offer is valid for a limited time. If over life control you seek, oh well. Your future is looking bleak.”
The music feels appropriate for the themes in “Lullaby for an Insomniac.” It sways back and forth in a hazy, dreamlike state during the verse and floats into an ethereal atmosphere towards the end.
The centerpiece of the album is the seven-plus minute “Dead of Night / Triumphant March.” It’s a dynamic, dare I say epic, song that has hints of Pink Floyd. The horns during the verse are haunting and fantastic while lyrics point to an unresolved existential dilemma. He sings, “Is there anyone out there? Or is it just me. Is this all just a great work of fiction? A spectacular fallacy.” The song eventually gets more intense as it progresses and ends up being quite an accomplishment. As the album comes to a close the band doesn’t show any loss of inspiration. “Coffee at Sunrise”, “Blue Moon” and “Rebirth” were all solid efforts.
Calamity & Rebirth is a cohesive, consistent album that leaves me with little to complain about. Job well done.
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