Album Review: Emotional hearkens to Bay Area counter-culture with The Band

Emotional, The Band, Brian Wakefield

The sound of Bay Area pop and rock band Emotional spans a variety of genres. Their second full-length LP, The Band (released March 3), was written and recorded in just three days. Despite the quick production, songwriter and local label Death Records co-founder Brian Wakefield’s insightful lyrics mesh well with psychedelic melodies reminiscent of counter-culture rock to create a nostalgic and cathartic album.

“Ballad of the Band” is a somber song with slow guitar strumming underneath Wakefield’s contemplative lyrics: “You won’t be content, working the graveyard again” leaves listeners feeling that familiar tinge of guilt for any time we’ve disappointed our friends. The friend may be right, but its tough hearing their criticism all the same.

The strumming grows aggressive with a Floyd-esque melody and Wakefield cuttingly sings, “Put down your guitar/ See who you are/ What you’ve become my friend.” He’s reminding listeners of a “gut check” coming at the hands of a close friend. It may hurt but it’s with good intentions. The band plays itself out as the melody slows and draws listeners into a near catatonic trance before reverb turns to silence.

Anxiety is the sentiment in “Jealousy,” a pop song steeped in reflection. “Hey little one/ I know things have been tough/ Just hang around/ ‘Til his old folks go out,” Wakefield sings, describing the desire to be just a bit older, yearning for more freedom and envious of those who have it. The upbeat melody and mournful lyrics create a strangely pleasant feeling of nostalgia.

“Heaven Couldn’t Wait” has a softer melody paired with Wakefield’s gut-wrenching and heart-warming lyrics about a dead friend: “What I would do, with one more day/ Oh heaven couldn’t wait to take you.” The song successfully speaks to different types of loss. Although the lyrics could be interpreted to describe a more romantic connection, the stirring lyrics can speak to a more platonic loss as well.

A saxophone solo between verses quickens the pace, contrasting with the somber lyrics: “It’ll come back, what we had/ What I lack, is you/ In a world so ugly and cruel.”

Follow columnist Ian Firstenberg at Twitter.com/IanFirstenberg.

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