Since this post is going live on Saturday, November 19, that means there is only six more days before the Slow Luck CD release show at the Crescent Ballroom next Friday November 25, the day after Thanksgiving. I am going to be real honest folks, there were three albums that came out this year that I suffered from impatience waiting for the official release date: Father Figures – Lesson Number One; Elbow – build a rocket boys!; Source Victoria – Slow Luck. All three times I have been extremely happy once I had the finished product in my hands. The only thing I have to figure out with the latest release from Source Victoria is where on my Stinkweeds Best Albums Top Ten List Slow Luck will land.
Yes, THIS DISC IS THAT FUCKING GOOD!
This review will appear on the Stinkweeds Reviews page in the near future but I wanted to give anyone that actually reads this blog a chance first. Here we go:
It has been four years since Source Victoria released The Fast Escape, nine tracks of dream pop bliss. Singer/guitarist/songwriter Brendan Murphy is the sole original member left in the band and has surrounded himself with some outstanding talent in the past couple of years. Today’s line-up of Murphy, Aaron Wendt on guitars, keyboards and vocals, Justin Entsminger on bass, Rick Heins on guitars and Scott Hessel on drums, plus contributions from several talented outside musicians all contributed to the 2011 release of Slow Luck. Source fans (like this one) may have been getting impatient for this release since the band started work on Slow Luck the spring of 2010. Folks, this album was well worth the wait, an ultra-impressive piece of work that displays some monumental progression from the band and a stellar mix of the band’s classic style of dreampop, plenty of indie rock and a beautiful style of mellow alternative pop.
Fans have heard the majority of this album live for well over a year now. The production and engineering job by Chris Testa, Murphy and Wendt, plus the mastering job by Jamal Ruhe all combined to make the twelve tracks on Slow Luck sound exceptionally crisp and truly bring Murphy’s vision for this record to life. While not a Murphy solo album per se, this album is definitely an open window into his soul. Some artists have trouble crafting that “personal album” without sounding insincere in the process. That is not the case with Slow Luck; kudos to Murphy for surrounding himself with quality musicians to make this album. This is one of those albums one really needs to take the time to sit down at home, play the album from track one to the end with headphones on to ensure that you are able to hear and discern every note and lyric that went into the recording process.
Slow Luck leads off with “All That You Taught Me”, a mid-tempo indie pop tune that begins with a keyboard intro that almost sounds like a xylophone. It is a delicate way for the song to commence; that is a key component throughout the album. Murphy’s vocals really shine through on this track with Hessel’s work on the drums propelling the song along and Heins adding a sweeping bit of dramatic guitar work.
I am a firm believer in having a solid lead track to hook the listener and make him or her want more. “All That You Taught Me” accomplishes that well. I also believe that track two should be the best song on the album. That is just my belief, but Source Victoria delivered an unbelievable song for track two that reinforces my philosophy, “Nobody Knows But Me”. This track is a stunning piece of indie rock, an explosive tune that immediately grabs hold of the listener with a guitar intro that brilliantly shimmers. I love the powerful three-guitar attack on this song and Murphy’s delivery on vocals is brilliant, but the rhythm work by Entsminger and Hessel truly make this song the special piece of work it is.
“Black Luck, Black Label” possesses some nice harmonies on the vocals between Murphy and Wendt and excellent work on the piano from guest Matt Maher. The chorus on this track is absolutely beautiful and positive. The end of this song leads right into “Taking Me On”, a track dominated by Entsminger’s powerful bass line. “Taking Me On” is a track made for the audience sing-a-long live with the “oh oh” chorus featured throughout the track. Heins brings the track to a close with a solid guitar solo, a unique characteristic for this band.
“Arrogance, Your Best Defense” may be one of the more compelling song titles I have come across in a long time. This track, along with “Little White Lie”, “Acetylene Torch Song”, “I Know You Well” and “Maybe You’re Right” feature Source Victoria doing something they do very well; bringing the tempo way down and pushing the musicianship of the band to the forefront. Whether the backdrop is a gentle sequence on the keyboards and piano or an acoustic guitar, these five songs display a tranquil, poetic side to the band. At the beginning of the review I mentioned the need to put on your headphones to experience the full effect of the music. That is critical on these five tracks. Sam Means played piano on “I Know You Well”, Stacy Piccinati played the cello on “Acetylene Torch Song”, Jamal Ruhe sang backup vocals on “Arrogance, Your Best Defense”, “Acetylene Torch Song” and “I Know You Well”, and Amy Ross contributed backing vocals on “I Know You Well” and “Maybe You’re Right”. “Acetylene Torch Song” may be one of the best songs Murphy has ever written and is a great transition after the intensity of “When You Say (Congratulations)”.
Track number six “The Only Road” fits in well with the five songs mentioned in the preceding paragraph due to the mellow tempo, use of the piano and acoustic guitar. Listeners may recognize the beautiful backing vocals on this track, delivered by none other than Lisa Loeb. Yes, as in “Stay” from Reality Bites Lisa Loeb.
“When You Say (Congratulations)” may be the most incendiary track on the album, a song that talks about an individual making a comment to someone without being fully armed with the facts about the situation. We have all been there, saying something then immediately wanting to take back our words even though no ill will was intended. The scorching lyrics complement well the rock and roll delivery of the music.
The closer to the album was the first single released from Slow Luck, “Once I’m Dead”. This track laid the foundation for the album, a song Murphy wrote one morning while contemplating the direction of his life and examining what mortality truly meant to him. If you click the link I just provided you can download the single from BandCamp, which also gives you the rock and demo versions of this song. I have listened to this song live a number of times but it was just recently that I gave myself an opportunity to really listen to and examine this song. It is a track that will tug on every emotional string in your body; the lyrical content is that intense. However, “Once I’m Dead” truly is a song of empowerment, a song that urges the listener to make the best of what time he or she has, rather than putting things off and not saying what needs to be said to a loved one right now. Bobby Lerma from The Father Figures applied the perfect adjective to my favorite band Elbow years ago; subtle. That adjective is the perfect description of this song, a track that is so simple yet overwhelmingly powerful at the same time. Jon Rauhouse, one of the industry’s best pedal steel guitar players plays on this song and as much as I love the rocking B-side from the single, this album version is what was needed to end this album. I challenge anyone to listen to this song and not feel something.
Former Source Victoria member Jason Sukut contributed to four tracks on the album and contributed to the arrangements on some of Slow Luck. As bummed as I was when he left the band I became equally as excited when Rick Heins joined. His unique style has really helped take Source Victoria in a different direction and transform these songs into the finished product we can enjoy on this album. Justin Entsminger at times reminds me of Nate Mendel on the bass with his smooth but powerful bass lines, Scott Hessel delivers a controlled fury on percussion, Aaron Wendt’s talented handprints are all over every song on the disc and Brendan Murphy simply knows how to write a great pop song. Combine those five talents and you have an outstanding release.
If it is not obvious already I HIGHLY recommend Slow Luck from Source Victoria!
Please make plans to attend the Slow Luck release party next Friday at the Crescent Ballroom. Bring a friend or ten, let’s really pack that place (the coolest venue in town by the way) and support the band. Remember, the $10 cover gets you the disc as well, can’t beat that kind of deal of folks.