Review : River City Extension - Donít Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger
AbsolutepunkRiver City Extension have never been a little band. Other than, you know, the fact that not many people are aware of their supersized approach to indie-folk/bluegrass. With a membership that outsizes some Midwestern towns, the New Jersey group are one of those classic, every-person-has-their-place sort of collectives. Leader Joe Michelini already cemented himself as a storyteller on 2010ís The Unmistakable Man, but here things feel fuller. They feel like the words of someone who isnít just telling stories, but living through them.
Donít Let The Sun Go Down On Your Anger, while being robust (14 songs clock in at almost an hour), is neither heavy nor dragging. Itís always an ambitious thing when a band claiming roots to the punk and hardcore scenes of the Northeast do something completely different and just expect people to take hold. But the pacing works so well that youíre enthralled from second one of opener ďGlastonburyĒ to the side-B star ďBallad of OregonĒ (a drum-driven, good-feeling singalong) to the sparse and spiritual closer ďLord, I Have Changed.Ē Itís the type of album where you get lost, letting things wash over you, yet somehow take in every word and strummed acoustic guitar with a fervor not out of place at a Southern Baptist church.
The Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, etc. These bands have found their foothold (one, in my opinion, in much more interesting ways than the other) by believing that all we want is to escape. Songs like the horn and piano-led toe-tapper ďPoint of SurrenderĒ and annoyingly-named single ďIf You Need Me Back In BrooklynĒ remove us from our surroundings. They throw us around, tornado-style, and drop us in an airy room with our closest, most meaningful friends. They are the songs that make you wish you were someone else Ė not out of sadness, but out of beautiful nostalgia. You hear lines like, ďFind your path is not as narrow as it seems / You have grown / You are free,Ē from the dusk-swept, violin-studded ďThe Fall and The Need to be Free,Ē and itís easy to understand why sometimes in 2012 we just need something that feels like itís from 1912....full text
PastemagazineIn the current indie sphere, bands that come with a rootsy/folk/Americana tag proliferate, tending to become one large, lumpen mass. But on River City Extensionís sophomore album, Donít Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger, the eight-piece band proves it is still very possible to stand out in the oversaturated genre.
River City Extension finds its niche by taking typical acoustic instrumentsóupright bass, cello and banjo are all used on the recordóand pushing them outside their normal dimensions, incorporating bright indie-pop, punk and country structure, with the slightest touch of world. There is no one sound to be found on Donít Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger; itís filled with melodious harmonies, mourning trumpet and bouncing piano equally. On a record that incorporates so many different instruments it would be easy for the sounds to become competitive, but there is an acute awareness of each, with none overwhelming the others. And throughout it all, the album still manages to contain a certain rawness at its core intrinsic to River City Extension, felt as you can still hear fingers dragging down guitar strings. It begs to be seen live.
Each song is filled with extremely personal yet intensely relatable lyrics as band leader Joe Micheliniís rough voice sings about alcoholism or wanting what he canít have, creating a palpable emotional tie with the music. Often backed by heavy, affecting strings, his words make it is easy to melt into the album and find yourself completely lost. Micheliniís dynamic vocals hold the record together, parts both Jeff Tweedy and Win Butler. His voice changes throughout the 14 songs, fluxing with the contours of each verse and providing each track with a distinctly different feel....full text
PopmattersDonít Let the Sun Go Down on Your Anger is a rather lengthy title for a rock album. The designation, rather, seems more in line with a worship service sermon or a psychologistís aphorism, where the affected audience members are encouraged to make daily changes to their lifestyles. For River City Extension front man and lyricist, Joe Michelini, the phrase, which is paraphrased from Ephesians 4:26 but was heard repeatedly from his mother while growing up, made perfect sense as a heading for his groupís latest album. See, Michelini has apparently spent much of the past decade acting like somewhat of an ass, a trait that surely alienated many of those around him. Rather than continuing along that same path, Michelini made the effort to change:
For the most part, these songs represent a darker period in my life when I really didnít like myself. I was still young and still learning, and a lot of people were probably hurt by the person I was at the time. And as I grew up and started to make some changes in my life, I was inspired to write about these situations.
So, it is that the genesis of this album was formed. But what kind of songwriter is Michelini? Is he a cheeky troubadour able to poke fun at his past indiscretions? Or is he a maudlin balladeer filled with earnest declarations of repentance? He is not referencing a new type of writing inspiration here, as countless others across the popular music canon have invoked prior imprudence as subject matter, so his approach to the songs do matter, if the listening audience is to take his words seriously. In press releases accompanying the albumís release, Michelini plays hard on his musical references, citing heavyweights Townes, My Morning Jacket, St. Vincent, Feist, and Conor Oberst as influences on his creative processes. While these odes are noble and show refined tastes, they are still no substitute for the real, genuine voice that must come from within, a personally unique persona that pays homage to your heroes, but comes through authentic and true. Itís here that this albumís 14 tracks come up a bit hollow, for it appears that though, Michelini has a lot he wants to say, he spends nearly an hour saying very little....full text
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