"The Sound" by Review Benjammin Van Lom
Hailing from Ukiah, California Top Shelf release their third full length effort The Sound. Once again displaying their unique ability to blend roots reggae with twisted hard rock easily creating one of the strongest reggae albums of 2011 to date.
The album kicks off with the album’s first single Moonlights, which from the very start shows Top Shelf mean business. The vocals on this song bring a “constant reminder” of Pepper but the swirling guitars give more of an eccentric electric energy. Moonlights is a solid single and contains the perfect ingredients to kick off the album.
Under Arrest has a flawless start with flowing vocals backed by confident reggae upstrokes. Although I like the main sound of this song I feel the chorus tends to get a little tiring after a few spins.
The Sound shows off the newest addition, guitarist Korey Ross and his uncanny ability to display smooth guitar riffs and swirling effects. I get a small metal vibe from the guitar in this track but it complements the song so well. Bands like The Expendables have already shown there is plenty of room in reggae for a wee bit of Metal. The guitar work on this song definitely stands out in my opinion and only gets better with each listen.
The album continues to flow fluently as the album spins and Live in your dream is a great example of this. Fantastic ambient backing vocals backed by orchestrated string instruments and Santana influenced guitar work. I love this song.
Waiting has more of a deep soul vibe that easily relaxes the listener and brings a sturdy mellow mood to the table. I’m hearing a huge Pepper vibe with a hint of some dirty Aggro reggae in this track. Zion Thompson from The Green is featured on this track and does nothing but contribute perfect relaxed energy throughout.
Fire and Ice jumps back on that upbeat reggae rhythm and easily shows that Top Shelf is capable of switching gears and delivering a super catchy crowd pleaser. This song shows off the albums solid production at work and will without a doubt be a fan favorite in a live environment.
More than a feeling grabs the listener and easily displays the unique songwriting we have come to appreciate from TOP SHELF. This song is one of my personal favorites and will be stuck in your head long after the album stops spinning.
We the people Switches gears and reverts back to more of an electric feel. With eccentric dark riffs and a strikingly seductive Reggae bass line. The guitar solo in the center of this track is some of the best work on the album and although I don’t love the chorus the lyrics give us a first hand glance at Top Shelf’s political awareness.
We still Burn displays the other side of Top Shelf. Very chill relaxed guitar and Chad Goodin’s solid bass play. The lyrics on this song are amazing and flow without hesitation. Gina Marie Lo Monaco is featured towards the end of the song and at first listen wasn’t at all what I had expected but after a few spins her vocal contribution only strengthens the song.
No Money in my Dreams is another of my personal favorites on the album primarily because it’s so easy to relate to. I love Carter Lane’s vocals on this track and feel it’s some of his best work on the album.
Lift Up is obviously another song aimed at crowd pleasing. The song has strength, stamina and the ability to move bodies. This song may in fact be the strongest on the album and I wouldn’t be surprised seeing it released as a second single.
The involvement of horns towards the end of the album is a definite highlight and I really wouldn’t mind hearing more use of this in the future.
Overall, The Sound offers listeners the perfect recipe; solid reggae rhythms, a hint of hard rock and a dash of limitless lyrics. As the album spins almost every song is surpassed by the next which is a rare find in music these days. I feel that the weakest tracks are stuck the beginning of the album and a full listen is absolutely required. To be completely honest this album was not on my “Anxiously awaited albums of the year” list but has easily been one of the best reggae albums I’ve heard so far this year. Top Shelf have floored us with unique songwriting and beautiful musicianship and I feel this is without a doubt their best work to date. Do yourself a favor and start your summer of right with The Sound.
Reviewed by: Benjammin Van Lom
FOR FANS OF: PEPPER, THE GREEN, CLEAR CONSCIENCE
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