[Recommended if you like: Justin Vernon side projects, Wilco, The Black Keys]
When a new band filled with familiar faces makes its way on the scene, people have lofty expectations. When that band’s frontman is Grammy award winner Justin Vernon, the expectations are even greater. Fans of Vernon’s project Bon Iver discovered his numerous other projects, including Gayngs, Volcano Choir, DeYarmond Edison, and The Shouting Matches following the success of For Emma, Forever Ago and Bon Iver, Bon Iver. Although Bon Iver is certainly the most popular of all of these projects, Vernon and company claim The Shouting Matches is their real focus. In a recent tweet about the release of the new album from The Shouting Matches, Vernon stated that this is not a side project for him and that it has been around longer than Bon Iver.
If you came into this record expecting to hear ethereal music, gorgeous string arrangements, and Vernon’s falsetto indistinct vocals, you are in for a harsh awakening. This record has all the signs of a good old-fashioned blues album: guitar riffs drenched in reverb, an incredibly tight drummer, and raspy strong vocals. “Avery Hill” opens up with a punch, especially when the full band comes in. Although the song is less than two and a half minutes long, it leaves your head bobbing and excited to hear the rest of the record.
Possibly the only thing that has made the move from Bon Iver to The Shouting Matches was Vernon’s tendency to name songs after relatively unknown cities, as he did with “Gallup NM.” Prominent in this song and many more throughout, a Rhodes keyboard makes its way into the record with a grand entrance.
The Shouting Matches’ “Heaven Knows”
The heaviest track on the album is certainly “Heaven Knows.” The guitar riff running throughout is matched by the bass and accented by the howling harmonica after each verse. The vocals add to the intensity of the song as they sound like they were literally recorded while singing into an empty tin can.
“Seven Sisters” is the most accessible tune on the record; the relatively short song focuses less on the guitar and drums and more on the catchy melody Vernon sings throughout. In a song written about choosing cars over girls, he sings out in the second verse “Got a Chevrolet and Porsche and misses, then there’s Aston and Lexus, just switch it. When you’re old, you’re gonna try to resist it. You’re just paying the whole time to kiss them.”
Although most listeners would agree that this record is hardly adding anything new to the blues/rock arena, The Shouting Matches provide us with a surprising new sound from unassuming suspects. For some, this record may come with strong distaste and a desire to hear a more subdued sound similar to past offerings. For others, they completely embrace the change in style and love the new sound. Regardless of your opinion, Vernon has made it clear that he is “winding down” Bon Iver, and he seems excited with this new road he’s taking.
Written by Matthew Moore
OurVinyl | Contributor