I don’t care what your religion is; you’ll have to pray for listeners of The Cold Year’s latest album in whatever way suits you! Hailing from Salt Lake City, Utah, The Cold Year is a self-proclaimed bastard jazz trio “with [a] heavy garage rock foundation [that] is made unique with the addition of gypsy jazz inspired instrumentation” and a DIY attitude. Matt Skaggs (Guitar and Vocals), Mitch Shepherd (bass), and Josh Cannon (drums) are releasing Prey for Me on October 4th, 2019, on all streaming platforms.
“Exordium” serves as a short introduction to The Cold Year’s unique style. With the combination of trickling guitar lines, glowing, bass and scratchy spoken-word vocals set into the echoing background, the first track creates an ambiance of an utterly interesting nature as its elements fade into screeching blackness.
The introduction to “Kill Yourself” features light, classic rock-inspired guitar picking and boomy, deep bass parts that aren’t afraid of moving to the forefront. In this track, the group’s jazz roots really come into play within the vocals. Scratchy, swinging delivery makes the track incredibly catchy within just the first round of listens. The combination of funky percussion and perfectly-executed phrasing are combined with just the right amount of guitar and bass in the mix to make “Kill Yourself” unforgettable even without the lyrics coming into play, although they add just as much to the track: “Take me from the people / Take me, break me / I ain’t worthy of your time / Waiting, laying / Thinking ’bout wonderful ways to die.” When the tongue-in-cheek lyrics are combined with the impossibly funny video, the track is somehow improved even further! “Kill Yourself” is not a track you want to miss.
“Thirty-Three and a Third” brings us into the song with a comforting, ringing guitar line. When combined with bass harmonies, the track radiates warmth in waves that roll gently behind the lyrics, lapping at the very edges of the vocals. Although the instrumentals in general are relatively simple-sounding, each band member really gets his moment to shine in this track.
The drums are a steady force throughout the song, but fade in and out in their intensity, anticipating the needs of the song intuitively in a way that allows for the beautiful dragging feeling that creates the song’s aesthetic as a whole.
The bassline is handled in a similar way: bell tones and echoing slides underlay reverberating open notes, showing the creativity in a track that I love to see as a fellow bassist.
The vocals’ warm tone soothes and quiets, really giving listeners the chance to experience the track’s musicality in not only the instrumentals, but in the singer’s voice as well.
As for the guitar part, I’m particularly impressed. Many guitarists don’t know the power of the space between the notes, but this track’s guitar lines are left to breathe in a natural way. This space allows room for every note to sing its own melody within itself, adding a stoic power to the track as a whole.
Subdued compared to the previous tracks, “Thirty-Three and a Third” is reminiscent of some of the music from bands like Copeland and From Indian Lakes, and would be a great introduction to The Cold Years for fans of softer, gentler genres’ music.
“Ammonia” takes the quiet broodings of “Thirty-Three and a Third” and puts them on a different level. Dark acoustic guitar picking sets the mood for the incoming bassline, which is shadowed and powerful, but simple. The percussion of the track is light for the most part, but the cymbal and rim work allows for a bit of balance in the high end of a song that is very bottom-heavy. The lyrics, too, are dark: “Addicted to a drug called hope / I can sleep when I die / Contemplating suicide / Oh, but that’s so cliche / To give into that hate.” Although they discuss very serious topics, the lyrics do contain hope, an important part of every human story. More than any other song of the album, the emotion is tangible in the highest moments of “Ammonia’s” vocals, backed by the intensity of rising instrumentals, before the wave crashes back down and trickles to a rest, the lasting boom of a bass echoing a flatline.
“Spanish Necks” features a Spanish-style introduction, complete with horns and the frantic guitar and bass strumming that gives the genre so much of its famous tension and beauty. Many classic elements come together with unique elements, such as the track’s energetic, fill-filled bassline and trickling guitar picking, to make it a work of art fit for any music fan to appreciate, even if the genre isn’t necessarily their thing. The percussion and horns work together beautifully to create a steady-yet-flowing time signature for the song, allowing the vocals to tiptoe overtop and mingle with the rest of the instrumentals in turn. Through each ever-changing section of the track, every member of the band remains locked and vibrant.
“The Masses” discusses organized religion “not in a bad way, but it’s like about it,” according to the live recording at Urban Lounge from 6/5/18. The Cold Year’s performance in the accompanying video shows just how fantastic they would be to see live in person. Their stage presence is quietly assertive, which I find more appealing than an act that is too flashy or more worried about looking “cool” than the performance of their art itself.
In terms of the recorded album version, which I am using for the audio of the review, the track is just as dynamic without the visuals. The bass is full and echoey beneath ringing guitar riffs and light kick drum and cymbal work. The lyrics are what interest me most in this track, as the idea for the song isn’t a common one: “Run, run, run like you mean it / Change, change, change like you mean it / I’m not rich enough / I’m not woke enough / I’m not smart enough / To be this cynical / Pray, pray, pray like you mean it…When life calls on me / I just turn on the T.V….” The instrumentals and the vocals take turns throughout the track, giving it an incredible sense of movement and energy throughout.
“Saint Iscariot” also has a live video from the Urban Lounge, which allows us to really feel the energy of the track live. The final hurrah of Prey for Me, the track is also one of my favorites for its swinging, fill-heavy bassline and jazz elements in the drums and guitar parts. The vocals are smooth and easy to listen to. The lyrics are well-phrased and interesting as well, with a catchy, easy-to-follow chorus: “What’s wrong with you? / Everything / What’s wrong with you? / It’s in my brain / What’s wrong with you? / I’ve gone insane.” As far as last tracks go, “Saint Iscariot” is a fantastic way to finish off a remarkable album.
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***Like the majority of my reviews, a submission fee was charged for this post.***