Colorway – The Black Sky Sequined
Colorway hails from Massachusetts and their second album, The Black Sky Sequined, features the same lineup that recorded their debut effort. This ten-song release is a top-flight production job with an outstanding mix highlighting each instrument and surrounding their sound with a warm edge designed to capture listener’s attention. Fronted by songwriter and guitarist F. Alex Johnson, this three-piece isn’t a power trio in the strictest sense. The band is unafraid to round out bassist Dave Hayes and drummer J.J. O’Connell with a four-piece horn section for one track and this kind of fearlessness to pursue their vision is a defining element of each performance from the album.
Johnson’s singing in the opener, “Gen Exit”, might initially remind older listeners of Art Alexakis from the band Everclear. Passing similarities aside, Colorway lay the hammer down with more authority than Everclear mustered in the heyday and gain a lot from vital and adult songwriting. It’s refreshing to hear a group of veteran musicians like Colorway refusing to pander to, perhaps, more youthful subjects. However, make no mistake – there may be a sense of Colorway aiming at a certain audience with songs like “Gen Exit” and others, but the material has universality any sympathetic listener can connect with.
The album’s first single, “Come Back July”, is a good choice for introducing the album because it arguably provides The Black Sky Sequined with its widest-reaching song. Few will be unable to relate to Johnson’s strong use of detail in conveying the experience of summers we wished never ended and he enriches the song with darker details hinting of struggles to come. However, the album’s opener might have been a better choice. The song promises a lot musically and never quite follows through.
“I Don’t Want to Go Home” is a well-played, distinctive song, but it’s another moment when some listeners will hang on for a move into a higher gear that never comes. Instead, the song takes a mid-tempo meander to a lackluster conclusion that even the sharp interplay between band members can completely redeem. “Explain” shows the band at their overall best. Johnson has a knack for impressive openings and his first verse for the song will catch many listeners’ attention. The trio locks down in a memorable groove and Johnson, in particular, unleashes a number of memorable lines
However, one of the album’s best moments comes from unexpected quarters. Johnson hangs an uncharacteristically poetic lyric on what is anything but an exercise in poetic music. Over its brief duration, Johnson’s guitar comes alive with a stunning array of blues phrases filled with melody. The band rarely takes an opportunity to stretch out instrumentally, but when they do like here, it’s gratifying.
Despite is drawbacks, The Black Sky Sequined is an ultimately gratifying album. It’s reassuring to hear bands still committed to plying their trade and perfecting their craft while story after story about The End of Music As We Know It darken the future. Whatever the drawbacks, this plays like an album that F. Alex Johnson and his band mates had to make. Those are the best kind, warts and all.