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?I can't get rid of it...? So goes the chorus on Los Angeles, the second track on 's recently released album, Highway, and I find myself in the enviable position of experiencing just that. Shade has packed this album so full of pop hooks and melodies and harmonies that I can't get away from them. I didn't think I would become as enamored as I am of the music, but I have.
First impression, and take into account that it was the very first, I thought maybe the band could have upped the production a little. Jane Gowan's voice maybe isn't the perfect voice for the songs she writes, but I have to tell you that the songs are something else. Sure, I've heard songs as good maybe, but a string of them? Very seldom. And here Gowan has strung together ten beauties.
About that voice, though. After that first impression, it sucks you in and before you know it, you find yourself looking forward to that upfront and almost in-your-living-room tone. She hits the notes all right, and at times it sounds a bit raw, but the smooth, harmonic background vocals supplied by Mary Harmer (sister of Sarah) and drummer Cam Giroux are perfect antidote and offset Gowan beautifully. Indeed, on track one (Highway), you hear the barest hint of what The Cascades had going for them on Rhythm of the Rain, the background is so woven into the mix. Listen closely and you find yourself realizing that her voice isn't the perfect voice. It is the only voice. Very immediate, it sets up the group sound for as straight up as the band sound is, it needs that smooth backdrop. This is pop, my friends, and very good pop at that. Very good.
This low-fi approach favored by the band actually ups their game a bit as it allows the song rather than the sound to dominate. Simple lead vocal, simple background vocals, simple rhythm section and simple unencumbered guitar can make for exceptional music if given the right song. Did I mention that Gowan supplied ten? Ten solid songs which crawl under your skin and make you itch. You start out thinking it's more of the same until you find yourself mentally humming a tune you don't recognize with these exceptional background harmonies and find out later that it is Los Angeles by, uh, Shade? And you think, what the hell? Or hear the lyrics and sound of Closer and think it's off of 's surprisingly good BREAKing album, only it's not. Or you have this line going through your head--- ?It's all I can do to keep moving...?--- trying to place where you heard it before and, damn, it's another Shade song. I'm not lying. It's happened to me and is happening to me.
I tell you, I love these guys and I can't tell you why! There is something beneath the music or in the music that I can't get rid of. I mean, I know I shouldn't like these guys as much as I do, but I do. Another one of those odd instances in this incredible world of indie music, I suppose. I guess if I knew everything, I would be a rich man. God knows, that ain't happening anytime soon. But I'm rich in my own way. I have music. I have and and and Zoe Muth and, yes, now Shade, and so much more. I keep telling people that music is better than ever. I just wish someone would start listening. Not to me. To the music. They're missing a golden age. They just don't know it yet.
Photo of Shade by Michelle Shook
Supporting the Indies Since 1969