- “I Hope God Don’t Mind if We Talk Awhiles…”
- Baby Please
- Get Clean
- What You Meant
- You Oughta Know
- One Foot in the Grave
My introduction to Abandon Kansas came in 2011 when the band offered their full length, Ad Astra Per Aspera on Amazon MP3 for only $3.99. While I wasn’t too familiar with the band, I figured that was a price I really couldn’t argue with.
I jammed that debut full length for quite some time, digging both the sombre and funky sides of the coin that the band had to offer. The record was incredibly diverse and had some truly memorable tracks on it.
Now, four years later, the band is back with their second full length album, Alligator on Bad Christian Music. Alligator offers a sundry cornucopia of lush musicianship and emotions. I think there’s truly something for everyone and every mood on this record.
“Mirror” starts off in a rather sombre manner, as vocalist Jeremy Spring laments, “Wake up / Fall asleep / Same thing on repeat” in front of a lush soundscape of keyboards and reverb soaked guitars. The song continues to swell and reaches its pinnacle as Everything in Slow Motion’s own Shane Ochsner lends his signature howl to the mix. The screams add a ton of eeriness to the already down tempo track.
The title track keeps the pace slow, yet adds it’s own spice to the mix as a dancy drum beat and poppy pianos contrast Spring’s crooning. Once the chorus kicks in Euro infused synth leads the way as Spring frankly states, “Better days just never found their way to me”.
The first single released off the album, “I Hope God Don’t Mind if We Talk Awhiles…”, still holds up as one of my favorite tracks on the album. The track begins in a psychedelic fashion as theremin dominates the musical soundscape, bringing to mind early martian movies. The song continues to weave in and out of various genres, showing glimpses of grunge and flashes of pop, all while maintaining the excellent bass groove Abandon Kansas continue to enamor me with.
Sound-wise, “Baby Please” is a bit of a glimpse into the past years of Abandon Kansas. The song is one of the catchiest on the album, as the chorus finds Spring begging, “Please baby, please / Won’t you just say something? / Say anything to me”, as backing vocals harmonize and add depth to the already infectious melody. The track continues to shine in the background as bells, bleeps, whistles, and buzzes making the bridge shine.
“Anniversary” is a painful song. Painfully good, but so honest and rings so true for me, it hurts. The song is a very sombre, piano led track with backing electronics. Spring’s heavily reverbed voice hauntingly declares, “Here’s to the end / The end of you and me”. The second verse finds female vocals recalling her side of the breakup the story is recounting. The male versus female vocals create a beautiful dynamic that makes the song resonate all the more. The bridge finds both sexes collaborating to create an Emery-esqe effect of trade off vocals.
Tackling the tough subject of addiction, “Get Clean” is a hard-hitting song with a ton of intricacies. Definitely a track I’d recommend breaking out the headphone for, track six constantly has something interesting going on. Be it the ragtime pianos, the swirling reverb guitars, or the laughing the in the bridge, there is something new to garner from the track with each listen.
Probably the most straightforward track on the album, “Shadows”, hits aggressively with a passionate indie rock sound. Another catchy chorus and playful guitar riffing are the highlights of this track. The track builds up steam until about the 2:50 mark where Spring starts declaring, “I’ve been dreaming long enough”, before exploding into a full fledged scream of, “I’m ready to wake up!”.
“I Knew What You Meant” is a very raw, acoustic guitar track. The track carries a very personal vibe to it with the recording effects being very minimal and the inclusion of street traffic in the background. While I’m not sure if the track speaks about Spring’s dad, the lyrics tell a story of a son watching his father struggle internally with lines like, “I slept through your sermons / You slept in torment” and, “You could fix anything / But you couldn’t fix the cancer”.
Following the downtrodden “I Knew What You Meant” comes my personal favorite on the album, “You Oughta Know”. This track sounds like it could have been on Ad Astra Per Aspera with somber, piano led verses with a catchy chorus and playful guitar leads throughout.
The album ends with another upbeat track, “One Foot in the Grave”. While a great, upbeat song, the closer feels a bit out of place not only as a way to close out the album but on the album in general. While a bit darker lyrically than something that would have found its way on A Midwest Summer, musically the track fits right with the other bubbly and poppy songs that were on that playful EP. As stated before, One Foot in the Grave is a great track, placement aside. The bubbly guitar leads and driving bass lines compliment that playful hand claps and heavy synth of the chorus.
Overall: Despite some odd track placements, Alligator is an incredible record. The honesty and passion produced by the band are rivaled by few, making this record something truly special. Abandon Kansas have overcome label issues and come out on the other side stronger than ever with ten memorable tracks that I will certainly be jamming for years to come.
RIYL: Mike Mains & The Branches | House of Heroes | Pacific Gold