Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Explorers Club - Together [Review]

The Explorers Club will release their 3rd full length album, Together, June 24th, 2016 on Goldstar Recordings. You can pre-order the album here, and listen to the new song, “Quietly”, here,

An incredible thing happens when you get some of the best musicians in the world together to record an album, and that’s exactly what the Explorers Club have done with their latest album, Together, set to release June 24th. The Explorers Club have recruited Wyatt Funderburk, the bassist and lead songwriter for the powerpop band Second Saturday and a fabulous solo artist in his own right ( to join the band, alongside Jason Brewer, Kyle Polk, Michael Williamson, and Paul Runyon. The result has been one of the best albums I’ve ever heard in my life.

Every moment of Together feels as if you were listening to a long forgotten unreleased Beach Boys masterpiece, from the funky self-titled opener (which features a theremin!), right to the album’s closer, the lush and gorgeous Before I’m Gone, every moment of this album is perfection.

The songwriting on display here is clearly the product of a seasoned master. Jason Brewer, the chief songwriter and lyricist of the band is a student of all the great (and obscure) masters of the 60s and 70s pop scene, such as Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Burt Bacharach, Joe Raposo, Paul Williams, Rod Argent, Harry Nilsson, etc. However, after all this careful study he is too clever to merely copy, he is instead forging his own path using the tools given to him by those great legends. It is really a pleasure to hear the excellent vocal arrangements on every song of this record. In fact, I would support the release of a “Vocals Only” version of Together!

Jason is also at the top of his game vocally as he demonstrates on songs like California’s Callin’ Ya, My Friend, No Strings Attached, and Don’t Waste Her Time. However, the album is truly a team effort on the vocal front, as demonstrated on songs like Quietly, which features Wyatt singing lead on the verses, Mike singing the chorus with Paul, and Jason singing the bridge. The result is one of the strongest songs on the entire album.

Another great song on the album is the aforementioned Don’t Waste Her Time. It begins with jingle bells jingling over a “Wonderful Christmas Time”-esque synthesizer, showcasing some of the the variety of instruments the band has at their disposal. By the time the chorus comes the ears are treated to a symphony of sounds to hone in on and dissect. There really is a lot going on here with the vocal harmonies, guitars, piano, drums, etc. It reminds me of the Four Seasons in the way that their backing singers would be singing a line like “Walk, walk, walk, walk, run, run, run...”, while Frankie Valli would be belting out his lines at the upper ranges of his falsetto. Every ounce of the raw power that Frankie Valli, Ben E. King, and Percy Sledge mustered in their finest love ballads is also conjured in full here. It’s a moving piece of music that has been running through my head since I first heard it.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also discuss the brilliance of Be Around. The song begins with a mid tempo piano shuffle reminiscent of the Beach Boys album Friends, but gradually adds additional layers of complexity such as bells, vocal harmonies, counter vocal harmonies, bass harmonicas, organ, cellos, slide guitars and a steady marching drum beat that grows more intense. The lyrics are endlessly upbeat and tell of a successful romance and the wonderful feeling of being with the one you love. An incredible treat also lies after the second chorus in the form of a sensational string section featuring violins, cellos and violas! There is some use of strings and horns throughout Together, but the use is extremely tasteful and never detracts from the star of the show, which is always the vocals.

Every song on Together is worthy of it’s own in depth analysis, but I hope it suffices to say that this is a must buy for anyone who has ever enjoyed a song by The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Zombies, The Carpenters, The Turtles, Bread, The Bee Gees, Chicago, Simon and Garfunkel or any of the other great pop masters.

Listening to such a solid record makes me wonder if, in a year when Chris Stapleton is exploding on the charts playing a brand of country pop that was last profitable in the 1970s, could The Explorers Club do the same?