Artist: Under the Bodhi Tree
CD: Self-titled (9 Track demo)
Label: Independent Artist
Genre: Alternative Folk, Alternative Rock, College Indie-Rock
Sounds Like: R.E.M., The Strokes, Blind Melon, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, They Might Be Giants, Pearl Jam, Fleet Foxes
Technical Grade: 7/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 7/10
Commercial Value: 7/10
Overall Talent Level: 7/10
Songwriting Skills: 8/10
Performance Skill: 7/10
Best Songs: The Angel, Girl in a Red Dress, Island in the Sun
Weakness: A few winded songs, More Instrumentation, Engineering Aspects (Recording, Mixing, Mastering)
Under The Bodhi Tree (Paul Depew, Duncan Newland-Thompson) is an interesting band that comes to us from Bainbridge Island, WA. The band just dropped their latest self-titled demo in June 2015. In their own words: “We are just a couple of musicians from Seattle trying to live out the old Grunge tradition of playing music we feel is the best.” With influences ranging from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Nirvana to The Beatles this band clearly showcases a lot of artistic diversity.
The demo kicks things off with melodic “Island in the Sun” a passionate yet invigorating psychedelic guitar driven intro groove with driving rock rhythm, hooky chorus and emotionally charged vocals from Depew. Track 2 “She’s So Tired” shifts gears a bit delivering a more rocked out groove, with melodic musical flow coupled with impassioned vocal feel meshed against thought provoking lyrical content and a heartfelt chorus. Track 3 “The Angel” keeps things moving in the right direction with its methodical intro, warm musical feel, eventually lending itself into an infectious melody that flows and ebbs its way through to emotional fruition. As the CD unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of The Strokes, Blind Melon, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, They Might Be Giants and even a dash of Pearl Jam and The Fleet Foxes. There’s also a dose of Psychedelic Rock. The band does a good job at capturing that soulful Seattle sound without trying too hard to do so. Right from the start you will notice this duo feels quite comfortable just letting it all hang out musically, not holding anything back. The overall musical vibe has a nice Alternative Rock feel to it. Music is at times genuine, gripping, intellectually stimulating, and melodic with pockets of hope shining through. Besides the four piece standard I can also hear rock solid rhythm guitar playing, a few impressive solo segments, eloquent sound effects and well placed vocal harmonies all built upon a thick as a brick rhythm section. Depew’s got solid vocal timber and is full of passion and reckless abandon. All vocal harmonies are well placed and very effective. Depew’s has good vocal instincts behind the mix within each movement he displays an impressive power, trailing vibrato and inviting timber throughout. At times Depew’s vocal style and trailing vibrato reminds me of the legendary Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam). Depew is a gifted songwriter, storyteller and vocalist. Behind the guitar and microphone he represents the vintage Seattle sound well, showcasing impressive blues based guitar licks and amazing soloing. The songwriting is highly creative and brilliant thus providing a lot of musical variety and emotional depth throughout. Depew’s vocal emotions really seal the deal for me on many tracks, as he makes a strong vocal connection with the listener. The musicianship has everything you would expect, and it’s impressive what these 2 have done with just 2 instruments. All songs are consistent musical experiences, each one possessing unique personality, flair and signature groove. From rocked out Blazed and Amused, to melodic Girl in a Red Dress this 9 track demo has something for just about everyone. The demo ends with Track 9 “People” the perfect finale statement for a CD Of this caliber.
All songs over 3 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. For the record the Bass guitar is lacking on several tracks, so essentially you are hearing just a guitar, voice and a drum kit within the sonic space. To go with this last comment perhaps more instrumentation is needed to spice up the catalog a bit better. The advent of at-least a bassist, or the use of an octave guitar, like Jack White uses in The White Stripes, would defiantly get this band over that bar. Personally I recommend Depew use an Octave Guitar thus maintaining the present two piece line-up. Some of the engineering aspects sound a bit off kilter and lackluster, especially on high end speakers. As a result the CD fails to swim at the deep end of the pool with other professional bands within the same genre.
In close “Under the Bodhi Tree” delivers an impressive yet impassioned 9 song demo. This highly marketable duo upholds the vintage “Seattle Sound” extremely well without sounding too dated in the process. If Depew and Newland-Thompson have an impressive live presentation, it would be no doubt a deadly combination. All songs are extremely melodic, passionate and highly entertaining – and clearly prove these two are off to a great start. This release may not be perfect, but manages to capture lighting in a bottle thus being a great freshman release to springboard well from. At the end of the day Under the Bodhi Tree, consisting of Paul Depew and Duncan Newland-Thompson possesses an infectious musical personality that shows much promise and potential moving forward. One would be wise to keep a watchful eye on these two over the years to come as their sound continues to grow and evolve.
Cyrus Rhodes approved by Mindy McCall