Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Album Review: JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound -Howl

JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound
*** out of *****

If Want More was this Chicago based retro-soul groups party album then Howl is the heartbreak filled follow up. The slick funk and anything goes vibe are replaced with much more scaled down grooves by The Uptown Sound and lyrics from Brooks that let you know he has dealt with some major issues in his love life.

The word sparse kept coming up over and over again while listening to Howl, whether it was the opening title track or the piano based bleakness of "Cold", minimalism seems to be a goal here. The hurt on "Married For A Week" seeps through, even the first uptempo track "Before You Die" places love in much more crucial situation, needing to get an admirers number before they die.

The bands take on 70's Sly and the Family Stone era soul/funk is scaled back but tracks like "Rouse Yourself" and "Security" get in that mood, the latter even tosses in some disco elements. "River" is a slow torch song that lets Brooks vocals shine and he makes the most of it. Also on the positive side are "Ordinary" with its deep fuzzy bass paired with rising strings and the arena rocking "Control"; when this band adds more and more to the stew tasty results usually follow.   

More mature, if less fun, Howl shows the retro-soul showman evolving into something new. While there are certainly growing pains ("Not Alone" sounds completely out of place), there are also bright spots (the swelling disk closer "These Things") and hopefully Brooks and his sound stick around to evolve some more.

We have been digging on JC Brooks & The Upown Sound for a while now.  We were blown away by them at Mass MOCA and dug their first album for Bloodshot Records. This one threw us for a loop, it is a definite departure in tone from their last disk, and while we always love when artists try something new this one seems a bit depressing overall, something this kind of music isn't always that great for.  Anyway, production and sound are all solid and the good tracks are really good.

Support them here, buy the album here, DEF go see them live as they kick ass and peep some samples below:
Actor is Traeveon Howard, with a guest appearance by 2012 Air Guitar World Champion, Justin “Nordic Thunder” Howard

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