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Urban - Album Review: Everything Except Time

19 Mar 2016 // A review by GrayVickers

Taking the DIY approach is something deeply engrained with the New Zealand musical attitude. From creating bedroom pillow forts to baffle guitar cabinets, to creating makeshift studios, It's a point of pride for many musicians to take creative control and allow themselves the freedom to experiment with their art in new and exciting ways. This is the approach Nelson band Urban took when creating their debut album Everything Except Time. Splitting recording locations between Bay City Studio's and their facility, StudioBox, the Nelson 5 piece self produced this eclectic collection of Pop Rock tunes, dripping in Soul and Blues influences and drenched in 70's inspired grooves.

Sometimes, the albums opener, builds quick momentum with it's David Bowie and Fleetwood Mac-esque rhythms and chord structures. Placing one of the albums more upbeat and rocking tracks at the beginning allows Urban to showcase the band at their full strength early on. Apathy and Blue follow on and keep the pace up. It's here we first start to get a taste of the rich vocal harmonies that interweave throughout the whole album. Throughout the opening tracks, listeners are treated to a playful dynamic of bouncing and, at time almost quirky, syncopated rhythms mixed amongst straight forward rock and roll choruses. The balance of these dynamics creates the foundation on which the silky smooth vocals sit upon. Blue also introduces one of the stronger guitar solos on the record, patiently mixing soulful long notes, fast runs and some delightfully tasty whammy touches. The opening act of this record shows the bands more rock side, however, at times feels like it's almost missing a few dynamic shifts to push the songs into bigger sections. Some sections feel as if they're calling out for more layered guitars or a build in the drums to pick them up and take them to new places.

Circling brings a shift in direction, with a light and fun galloping feel. Never pushing to become more than it is, the track is a great showcase of some of Urban's strengths. The guitars, bass and keys play off nicely to create an understated platform for some beautiful vocal melodies and harmonies that jump around the instruments and effortlessly tease in and out of falsetto. Cynic brings us back to the soul and funk influences that hold a firm place on the album. The strong use of jazz chords give this track a smooth texture, although the track feels like it's ready to build somewhere, yet never quite takes off.

Don't Mind You is the stand-out track for my mind. It highlights where the band really holds its best elements. Playful high register guitar strumming, with upbeat drums and bass again give the vocals some great moments to shine and the harmonies are very well balanced, giving the whole song a very summery vibe. This track wouldn't feel out of place during the opening credits of a Michael Cera movie, or playing out of cars at a beach picnic. There are some patches where the instruments fall out of rhythm with each other, but those moments feel like they add charm to the piece rather than detract from it. If I was Urban's Colonel Homer, I'd be making the call for Don't Mind You to be my lead single.

Wrecking Ball draws memories from the New Zealand golden era of 80's Punk and Pop sounds, It's a no nonsense driving track demonstrating Male vocals for the first and a catchy as hell chorus. As we near the business end of the record, it's great to hear a track like this completely break the mould the rest of the album has cast, proving the Urban are not a one trick pony - this band definitely draws it's influences from many wells. Storm Brewing definitely has the coolest riff on the record. The whole song feels cool and breezy, with a laid back groove and a chorus that teases more than anything, The song sits comfortably in a pocket of groove, not needing to go anywhere else. I would've hoped for a stronger solo for the end section, stepping away from pentatonic runs that have been strong through the album and into something with a few more unique touches that shows off the playing personality more.

New Song showcases the bands 70's rock influence of the Fleetwood Mac's and others. Creative chord changes offset wonderful harmonised vocals and creative uses of minor changes create a wonderful pre-chorus that builds into one of the stronger choruses of the album. New Song affords each musical identity in Urban a chance to shine and find their own space within the track.

The album closer, Floating, is another great example of free flowing vocals dancing without care between guitars and keys. The balance of full voice and falsetto give this minimalist piece a great wide open feeling and ethereal harmonies fill the space well, adding a great texture to the song. If I was to say Urban had a real strength, it's in these stripped back pieces. Not stripped back in terms of removing instruments, but in the way the instruments are used. Creating textures and emotions rather than the specific notes and chordal elements. Urban is lucky enough to have two female vocalists with strong voices that play incredibly well together and having the musical backbone in place to allow them to do so is where their best music comes from.

In terms of production on the album, I was a bit disappointed. Whilst it's an album with many different styles and varieties, I would've liked to have heard more solid foundations with the drums and the bass as well as more double tracked guitars to thicken the sound up. Whilst Urban have prided themselves on self producing the album and pushing for an “organic” feel, there does need to be a balance between organic “live” and organic “produced”. More time spend with drum sound production would have given the album a much more fuller sound. Trying a few extra takes on the guitars and bass would've produced less sections where the parts fell out of time and would've tightened the record up significantly.

My overall feeling of Urban's Everything Except Time is that it is a strong collection of musical ideas that have sadly fallen short of their potential on account of production and time spent in the studio. I think the parts are great, the playing off between the instruments and the vocals at times is superb and the foundations for strong songs all lay within this album. There is always a risk when self producing a record, even when there's an outside engineer on board, that the quality control over performances isn't as rigorous as it could be, and I feel this record has fallen victim in parts to that. Whilst there are some great musical ideas being displayed, the execution in both performance and recording at times take away the strength of those parts.

Song of the Album: Don't Mind You
Moment of the Album: The first minute of Floating.
Overall Rating: 2/5

 

About Urban

Urban is a five piece rock/pop band based in Nelson.

Established in late 2013 as a duo, then rapidly morphing into a 5 piece,
Urban released their debut album "Everything Except Time" on the 4th March 2016.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Urban

Releases

Everything Except Time
Year: 2016
Type: Album

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