RELEASE: Songs From The Woods
RELEASE DATE: 26/05/16
RECORD COMPANY: Unsigned
What do you get when you mix smooth soundscapes with rock’n’roll, hush with loudness or hypnosis with high flying vocals? ‘Songs from the Woods’ is what you get. This mini album/EP from dream rock duo The Maheekats seeks to remind the listener of the past, while evoking originality and something altogether interesting… And it does so over the course of six dream inspired, folk-impinged rock and pop tracks.
READ ON –
The EP begins with the song ‘Lady in Space’, that begins with ethereal alternative guitars and the comfortable tap of the drums in the background, until the fantastic and hypnotic vocals enter the mix, giving the song a distant folk sound that mixes in brilliantly with the dream rock fused bass, thick and heavy. The song seeps ‘The Stone Roses’, in lyrical quality (see ‘Waterfall’) and with a similar production technique (except Maheekats production sounds much fuller). The chorus, which backs off on the instrumentation to allow for the catchy lyrics, is a warm and enjoyable creation. However, with the immense lyrical quality of some songs, ‘Lady in Space’ wavers between interesting and boring each listen. Its chorus and simple instrumentation (beside the fantastic bass) don’t allow it to stand out from 90’s alternative rock radio hits with the exact same style of writing, and ultimately the song sounds timid and tiresome. This song is followed by the refreshing and dreamy ‘Shotgun’ which sounds influenced by the Kate Bush styled art-pop that Maheekats blend together with greater and more experimental instrumentation. The vocals featured in the chorus are phenomenal, especially when they reach and grab the trance-evoking high notes that are underpinned with a brilliant array of horns. The song then introduces a breezy, shoegaze filtered synth line which finally mixes into the songs brilliant collage of horns, vocals, drum, bass, guitar, keyboards and more. ‘Shotgun’ displays all the greatest elements of Maheekats diverse and layered song writing skills, along with lyrics and a denser production style that allow the song to project itself beautifully.
‘Starry Ocean’ is a fantastic post-rock, piano centred interlude… Simple, soothing, imagery evoking brilliance. The genius touches of smaller sounds (pads, strings) allow the piano to serve as both a background and foreground instrument for the listener, rather than an average and stock standard interlude or instrumental album fillers. The Pretenders influenced ‘Without Horizons’ acts as the EP’s biggest step into straight-forward alternative rock, not that’s a bad thing. The riffs featured on the song once again highlight the wide and talented vocals of Maheekats and the quality of the production (and mixing) are of a fantastic quality. The greatest element of ‘Without Horizons’ is that it features some of the EP’s most well-written lyrics. These lyrics read as poetry and arise as the songs ultimate feature after each listen. Musically it sounds like a seventies inspired heavy rock song but practices a subtle hint of nineties era alternative/garage musical expansion which propels it to be greater after reading (or in this case listening) into it.
The epic ‘Eureka’ follows, constructed at around seven minutes and featuring all the musical adventures that the band has embarked on across ‘Songs from the Woods’. ‘Eureka’ begins entrancingly intelligent, with soft sung vocals and basic instrumentation that feeds the listener the dreamy, poetic lyrics on a golden plate. The song then eases into a bizarre exercise in drum bashing and the lyrics roll out into ‘The weight of the world is in hand’ sung over and over… The brilliant guitars follow, but the lyrics don’t… Instead turning into a tongue in cheek Celtic influenced folk-dance underpinned with… Um, animal noises? Or something? I don’t know. Then the song continues with an interesting bassline which is slowly drowned out with cymbal rape (is there a reason we can only hear cymbals?) before the guitars and other instruments return to evolve the song into an interesting and engaging piece of music. The outro to ‘Eureka’ finally does the entrancing vocals justice, and uses them as an instrument rather than another mere feature. In fact, on the outro to the song, the Maheekats manage to mix all the instruments together to create a soothing and interesting piece of music, reminiscent but much more epic than on ‘Shotgun’ which saves the song and reminds the listener of the high quality of song writing they are listening to.
After listening to ‘Songs from the Woods’ I was confused, with what opinion? On one hand, elements of the EP shone through brilliantly and tied everything together to create a musical beast worth listening to over and over. But on the other hand I wondered, sincerely, about a few features on the album. For one, ‘Lady in Space’ became more and more generic after listening to the EPs other tracks, displaying the professional and engaging level of song writing on the other tracks but in turn doing the band (and ‘Lady in Space’) no favours. The instrumental interlude ‘Starry Ocean’ was fantastic… So fantastic that it was more enjoyable than ‘Without Horizons’ (which has its own merits), which somehow (while being enjoyable in its own right) bought the level of song writing back to near the same area as ‘Lady in Space’. And while ‘Eureka’ eventually highlighted and presented an extravagant piece of song writing and music, the middle section was completely baffling with its instrumentation, mixing and interpretation.
Let’s get one thing straight… ‘Songs from the Woods’ features next to no post-punk, dream pop, shoegaze or hugely experimental music and at times the EP even seems far from the bands self-dubbed dream rock status. There is nothing wrong with that, however listeners seeking out these things should instead know that ‘Songs from the Woods’ is fluent with art pop, folk rock and even underpinned with large amounts of Celtic and Irish music in some songs. Altogether the band resemble Kate Bush more than any other artist; occasionally they dabble their toes in heavier rock, but ultimately the vocals direct the music into a style most reminiscent of Bush’s. And much like (but superior to) Kate Bush’s bizarre 00’s albums, ‘Songs from the Woods’ seems like a representation of a band obtusely seeking effort and thus creating something unchallenging, in patches greatly uninteresting and generic.
But this mini album is also greatly enjoyable, features brilliant performances and production and ultimately attributes top quality song writing within. On tracks like the outro to ‘Eureka’, ‘Shotgun’, the post-rock inspired ‘Starry Ocean’ and the riffs on ‘Without Horizons’ the band highlight beautiful and engaging soundscapes and construction, achieved through mixing, production, performance and sound.
3.5 / 5
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on the Australian heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.