River City Extension


Written by: TL on 20/03/2015 18:20:57

It's been three years since we last heard from New Jersey indie/folk group River City Extension, yet the band is back this year with a new record called "Deliverance", which came out little over a week ago. The group has had as many as eight members connected simultaneously, yet while people have come and gone since their debut EP from 2009, the nucleus has always been songwriter Joe Michelini. Channelling an admitted influence from New Jersey hero Bruce Springsteen, Michelini wields a softer voice which sounds somewhat typical to American indie-rock, with mannerisms borrowed from the boss. Around him, elaborate arrangements of clean guitars, pianos and various classical string instruments unfold and give the band its folksy nuances.

You could describe the band that way on 2012's "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger", and you can still describe them that way on "Deliverance". It holds true especially in the record's highlights, "Man Of Conviction", "Ohio" and "White Blackmail". All three songs have a spring in their step and an uplifting mood going, feeling like soundtracks to loading up your car (or wagon!) with all your belongings and setting off for the west with an adventurous spirit. The band does this feeling particularly well, drawing you in the most in these songs, and while it comes a bit cheaply with the soon-forgettable "Oh-oh-oh" refrain in the former of the three, the female-backed chorus of "Ohio" holds up, as does the way the energy just builds and builds in "White Blackmail".

The album is going to have the most impact with those carried away by the atmospheric instrumental arrangements though, while others may be left a bit cold by some of its drawbacks. Opener "Something's Gotta Give" is a good example of a River City Extension song that gets going with parts that feel like they promise the listener more release than they ever deliver, and especially this song has a strange, noisy drop-off for an ending very early on the album. The way it segues into "Man Of Conviction" leaves you wondering what the band was thinking. Meanwhile, Michelini's choices in his vocal performance are somewhat inconsistent. Unsurprisingly, he doesn't sing with a gravity that even begins to measure up to the Boss, but more importantly he often vocalises a bit unnecessarily, and you often wish he had focused on singing some stronger hooks to help give structure to the listening experience.

Lacking this, the vocal narratives often feel like they flow a bit too freely and fail to properly capitalise on the careful work the band has done with the arrangements of separate parts. Your attention might be roused momentarily in the first, primarily acoustic chorus to "Girls", only to soon drift away as the song takes a quirky, funky twist, which doesn't sound unlike something a similar outfit like My Morning Jacket would attempt, but doesn't really come across as well as you'd like here. This leads us to an overall consideration of the album: Namely that listening to "Deliverance" is pleasant enough, and there's respectable musicianship on display across the board, but it is exactly in the delivery of what its sound promises at a glance, that the band doesn't quite get the job done.

Download: Ohio, White Blackmail, Man Of Conviction
For The Fans Of: Cold War Kids, Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket, Alberta Cross
Listen: facebook.com/rivercityextension

Release date 10.03.2015
Anchor & Hope Music

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