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Tomahawk Radio - Album Review: Dreaming With A View

20 Jun 2023 // A review by Nicholas Clark
Tomahawk Radio’s debut album, Dreaming With A View follows their recent single release of the pop tinged rock song Missiles. The band is effectively listenable, soft, alternative rock, but perhaps ‘soft’ is not a favourable way to describe them – ‘sensible’ might be better. They are radio friendly in the way a producer might steer less talented musicians toward, but I could certainly imagine a wide range of people listening to them in all sorts of scenarios; a film soundtrack, a music video set in Otago, an advertisement...

The band is well presented here with lush reverb, tasteful tight drumming, and a balanced mix that is rich with shimmery guitars, occasionally joined by Rhodes piano lines, topped by the reedy voice of Jeff Avery and the rest of the band who also sing.


Coming from Dunedin they might be associated with the jangle-pop of famous luminaries such as The 3DsThe Clean or Straitjacket Fits, and there is that element present, but Tomahawk Radio are somehow more professional and polished than those more well-known acts.

Across the album there is tasty, practical overdriven guitar tones that fit well next to the more shimmery notes of the other guitar. The bass here supports the other instruments, maybe to the point of invisibility at times, while the drums introduce new songs and parts with small but surprisingly deft fills.

But, let’s be honest, the real star here is the emotive chord progressions that point toward a country influence. Occasionally the sound like a New Zealand R.E.M., and do I hear some inspiration from Fleetwood Mac and other 1970’s AOR rock?

The album kicks off with Dreamer, which features a simple spacey solo within its pop rock, sing-a-long format then ends on a great and unexpected chord. It’s a well-chosen opener to display what the band are capable of.

The album continues with Delusion which offers more of the same well-balanced balladry, only it's a little slower, including an even more emotional chorus and bridge. There’s a brilliant chord progression on offer here, but I can’t quite place where I’ve heard it before despite it seeming so familiar. Again, there’s an epic, but simple guitar solo comprised of well-chosen notes.

The Phone Rings starts with a Rhoads keyboard part, introducing another potential single for the album. Here, the band slows down further but there are moments of emotive frustration in the voice and expressive drum fills.

Sunshine has some great dual vocals within the poppy, shimmery goodness. The song has an amazing ending that would work well in the live setting.

Hit A Nerve brings the rock back up with a melodic riff, but it all comfortably returns to the same mid-tempo pop. Not that it’s a bad thing, or an easy thing to balance all the instruments so well. Still, I feel just a little disappointed the band has returned to the same vibe after the more energetic introduction.

Almost Drowned starts with a clever little drum pattern and another carefully crafted chord progression. Vocals sound a little different hear, as if they are mixed with a different hierarchy from the other songs.

Missiles, the single, erupts out the gate with a shifty little riff with a tasteful bit of keyboard helping form the chords and outline the melody. This is great song about both our modern times and the similar Cold War era of MAD. There’s a cool music video on YouTube for this song that has a live performance of the band and some retro footage. Check it out.

Time, the slowest track, uses deep reverb and a diminished chord for extra emotional impact at the turnaround. It's slow-dance material, but probably the type of song better enjoyed alone looking out over a natural landscape. A cool little wah riff adds some flavour here. The placement on the album is perfect as things come to close.

However, the band surprises the listener with the final track, To Your Lover which totally rocks with some delicious overdrive. What an end!

All in all, it's hard to fault this band’s effort. This album is a sophisticated gem with strangely familiar melodies, beautiful chord progressions paired perfectly with layered vocals and dreamy guitar. What it lacks in originality perhaps it makes up for in professionalism. Some snobby reviews might reject such efforts, (think Pitchfork and some other indie loving entities who reward experimentation) but you’ve got to hand it to them for making such a listenable collection of tunes. There is a boldness here; not in trying to reinvent the wheel (as many rock acts have attempted before them), but being bold enough to even attempt to refine the wheel further to a polished finish.

A wonderful impressive record, … it’s just a bit shiny.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )
 

About Tomahawk Radio

In a studio perched high on a windswept hill, the kind of full on place where the trees hunker sideways and the ocean views stretch to Antarctica, a new Dunedin sound is brewing. If it weren’t for the four solid walls of Tomahawk Radio’s HQ, the melodic strains of guitar, vocal harmonies and Rhodes piano would be snatched away in the teeth of southerly gales.

Singer, bassist and surfer Brian Graham bought his wind buffeted Otago Peninsula home so he could keep an eye on the waves at both Tomahawk and Smails Beaches. When he realised his dream of building a music studio adjoining the house, he and bandmates Jeff Avery and Luis Rodriguez got serious about developing the band’s sound and releasing some songs.

After a couple of years trying different drummers to join them, they finally found the perfect match with drummer and composer Scott J Mason, who brought his Rock playing experience into the sound.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Tomahawk Radio

Releases

Dreaming With A View
Year: 2023
Type: Album

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