EP Review: Relay Vol 1/Andy Reed (Released December 11, 2015)

Four out of Five stars

by Gargs Allard

Often music critics such as myself try to describe to newbies how a band sounds by relating them on some level to other musical entities they may know. They do that because it can have some positive effect toward the goal of helping the reader understand the band better, but the proof in the music is obviously listening to it.

The first of two EPs, meant to be side one and side two of a vinyl release slotted for spring 2016, Relay Volume 1 by Andy Reed is chamber pop pretty close to at its best – with splendid melodies that resonate in the heart of the listener and that can get even the most curmudgeon-like critic whistling or tapping his or her feet to one of its tunes.

Relay Vol 1 is Reed’s first solo release since his 2011 American Underdog LP. It sounds something like Fountains of Wayne meets The Pearlfishers. There I did it.

Last year, the Michigan native, Reed, worked a lot with his band The Legal Matters, with whom he dropped two releases, the self-titled debut The Legal Matters in April and Oddities and Entities in June, both in 2014.

“Waves,” the first track on the EP, is a lyrically sparse number that builds up almost like a wistful anthem to “And you were on your way.”

“Dreaming of the West Coast,” the first single off the EP echoes the sentiment of many young adults stuck in a rut with the repeated lyric “Will we ever get out of here?”

The clever lyrics explore leaving the Midwest on a snowed-in day and pondering the possibilities of a move to one of the coasts: “I’m Dreaming of the West Coast /Staring out the window /Looking for a second chance /Became a rebel out of circumstance,” and the witty “I’m dreaming of the East Coast/ That’s how this conversation goes/ The hustle of the greats collide/ But the devil isn’t on my side.”

“Love is Gone” is a melodious and melancholy number with cryptic lyrics. Since I didn’t want to speculate on them, I asked Reed about the song, who replied, “It’s definitely the story of an individual going through some kind of internal struggle. We’ve all had our low points in our lives. It kinda tackles that kinda stuff. The tune and melody were definitely [Paul] McCartney and Elliott Smith influenced.”

Perhaps the best song of the EP is Reed’s second single of the record, “Darlin’, You Don’t Know” –  a memorable tune that uses a strong bass line and drumbeat as its backbone. In every way, the song is quintessential power pop, replete with captivating verse, a catchy hook chorus and an ending searing guitar riff.

In “I Love a Long Goodbye,” Reed’s singing is reminiscent of Sean Lennon, only starting a power pop band, much like his famous dad.

Reed’s musical intuition seems to be getting more in tune over time.

All in all, a great release. I look forward to what I expect to be a beautiful, full-length vinyl LP.

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