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If it’s possible to sound futuristic and old school at the same time, The Rooks have managed to do it. It’s hard to pinpoint their musical influences, which made them utterly fascinating to me from the get-go. The obvious soul sound is immensely appealing, but so are their keen musical ears, giving them the ability to keep the time signatures fluctuating in the grooviest way imaginable. These guys didn’t waste any time in their six-song album to let us know what they are about. In the short time, they will delightfully captivate your ears and your musical mind, leaving you wanting more.
The album kicks off with “Intermission,” which features an electronically rhythmic backbone. The harmonies come in straight away and let you know that these guys mean business. Lead singer Garth Taylor’s voice is soothingly smooth, and the drums are tight, guiding the impeccable groove. The soul and R&B vibes are strong, but they’re presented in a rather modern atmosphere. These guys are already the definition of “cool” through the first listen of the first song, but what’s even cooler is that I had no idea what to expect from the rest of the album, and, admittedly, that unpredictability is quite thrilling to me.
As predicted, they remain unpredictable as the track changes to “Doubt.” It’s wonderfully understated and chill, allowing Taylor’s voice to soar. The harmonies are even low-key in the beginning of this song, but they build up ever so perfectly, as things pick up for the chorus. The natural musical talent in this group is clear, and their modernist undertones add an element of mystery that continues to draw you in. “Willow” also takes on the chill side of their sound. The electronics in the background are subtle but important to the complete product. The electric guitar in this track is smooth and groovy. These guys don’t take you through a very typical song layout; they manage to keep you surprised and intrigued by what might happen next, yet there is still a distinct flow to their sound. It’s a wonderful thing to experience.
The beginning of “Bury Me Deep” was reminiscent of Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” which takes me to the happiest of places. The song ultimately takes a different route, but those old school R&B elements stick around in the best of ways. The chorus is catchy, featuring a horn section to accompany Taylor’s incredible vocal track. If this song doesn’t make you dance and sing along, I’m not sure we can be friends.
“Better This Way” is an ultimate mixture of elements in all of the tracks on the album. The electric guitar is ever-present and the horn section placement is more than keen. Taylor examines the heights of his vocal range, as he gives us a taste of his beautiful falsetto, bringing us back to the days of real, old soul music. The subtleties in this song shouldn’t go unnoticed, as The Rooks are truly masters of their craft. This song could fit, seamlessly, into the late 60’s or early 70’s R&B/Soul scene without any question of doubt. I appreciate the twist they put on the sound, as it’s absolutely refreshing.
“Secrets” is one of my favorite tracks on the album, as the rhythmic and rich vocals are accompanied by the simplest of backing music. The harmonies in the falsetto range are powerful, and the electric guitar stands out to complicate the melody just enough. I would love to see this track performed live; as I believe these harmonies would come alive on stage on an even greater scale. The slow groove is contagious, and I could listen to it all day. Unfortunately though, I have already covered all six songs, and I honestly can’t say anything but great things about each of them. I can’t wait to see these guys play on tour. Luckily, they are currently on tour for you all to check out! To my fellow New Yorkers, I hope to see you out supporting The Rooks on July 29 at One Penn Plaza!
Article: Alex Feigin