Colorway – The Black Sky Sequined
Colorway isn’t messing around. This hard-nosed, smart three piece hailing from Northampton, Massachusetts is a lean musical force that bristles with energy in every performance. They release their second album, The Black Sky Sequined, into an increasingly marginalized and fragmented rock scene, but it establishes this collection of musical veterans as a force to be reckoned with going forward from here. The quality of their debut is no fluke. They have every piece in place – pristine yet vibrant production, intangibles like chemistry, and ten strong songs that, at some points, scale peaks the band hasn’t reached until now.
The first of these moments comes with “Gen Exit”. The album’s first song is a white-knuckled musical workout centering on a deluded wannabe who never meets their lofty aspirations. Johnson belts out the lyrics with an ironic edge and his fiery guitar fills often flare from the band’s tight groove. It’s such an impressive start to the album that its follow-up, “Come Back July”, saps the momentum some. This unfortunate turn comes thanks to the latter song’s comparative slackness. The song has a lot of strengths, especially a fine lyric, but its proximity to such a balls-out opener diminishes its potential. “I Don’t Want To Go Home” continues the trend and suggests that the band thought listeners needed an extended breather after such a powerful opening. Once again, there’s nothing wrong with this track and it has a number of fine elements, but it lacks fire.
The intensity returns with “Explain” thanks, in large part, to Johnson’s sometimes seething vocal and explosive lead work. His voice communicates a tremendous of weariness, as well, and it illustrates another band strength. Johnson’s voice is the band’s secret weapon musically. His vocals don’t have tremendous range, but his emotive talents and skillful phrasing make him a superb interpreter of the band’s songs. “Me and My Baby” further illustrates the point with how his laconic vocal gives way to unexpected moments of pathos. His guitar, as always, leads the way musically and shows a variety of influences without ever sounding imitative.
“Everybody Wants Me to Love You” rattles speakers as the album’s best outright rocker. It’s one of the album’s rare moments when you sense the band reaching for long hanging fruit and they knock it out of the park, but it’s a genuine moment of great melodic rock. “Telephone” ends the album’s longest song, but Colorway never loses control of the song. Instead, it’s a smartly written piece that brings in new elements, a brass section, into the band’s wheelhouse. It may be hard for newcomers to reconcile the hard rocking outfit heard on the album’s first nine tracks with the authors of this risky gamble, but it pushes the band’s sound into new areas and holds your attention for seven minutes.
This is impressive stuff. There’s no need to trot out clichés about album of the year candidates, career-defining releases, or classics. This album isn’t any of those things. However, it is the work of a rising creative force in modern rock music and, therefore, essential listening for anyone who cares about the genre’s future.
8 out of 10 stars