Wherever one looks, especially in the world of music, there is a strict series of categorization based upon appearance, sound and creed. The separation of music and music groups by genre is something that we have always done.
But the evolution of the genre has transformed this regulation into one of the most polarizing elements of our daily lives. It’s actually quite mind-boggling to hear people day after day describe their musical tastes as being “everything but country.” People base their personal preferences off only a few limited examples of an enormously broad range of music. And, quite frankly, it pisses me off to hear things like this.
But maybe that all ties in to why I enjoy the new self-titled album from the band Apollo Sunshine so much. After listening to the entire album several times, I was driving myself to the brink of insanity trying to slap a label on the group as to what type of band they are. And after this futile, ulcer-inducing exercise, I am content to say that no one genre of music would be both broad and accurate enough to pinpoint the exact genus and species of their sound. This fact alone serves the band just fine.
The second full-length album from the former Berklee College of Music students is an outstanding collection of songs that expands upon their 2003 release, “Katonah.” Adding multi-instrumentalist Sean Aylward was certainly an upgrade, and as a four-piece group, the band has been able to diversify and fill out their sound nicely. Aylward, in addition to founding members Sam Cohen and Jesse Gallagher, share the duties of playing a combination of instruments, including guitar, bass and various keyboards.
One of the many things that the band improved upon with this change was in their ability to change direction within each of the songs. The first two tracks of the album could not possibly provide more evidence of this.
The opener, “Flip!” does exactly what the title suggests as the mood and time signature change several times throughout the track. “Ghost,” the second track, opens as a delicate, finger-pick combined with xylophone pseudo-ballad that slowly builds until bursting in an array of guitars and driving rhythm before ending just the way it began.
If it weren’t for the musical arrangements on this record, the wonderful tongue-in-cheek lyrics would certainly stand out and grasp onto the listener. As it is, the wall of sound song structures easily carves out some of the most innovative and creative melodies of the year. From a pair of truly danceable songs (“Phoney Marony” and “Eyes”) to the country-like stomp of “Today Is The Day” and “Magnolia,” to the purely catchy instrumental “The Hotter, The Wetter, The Better,” the scope of the band’s sound seems to be infinite.
It is true that so much is made of musical genre these days. But, genre is just another tool that record labels use to market their product to the media. When a band is able to so easily transcend the barriers of genre, that’s when truly entertaining records are created. Apollo Sunshine has done just that and to them I say: bravo.