Gnarly Karma – Classic Breeze
This is the first album from this band. They show here that they have the ability to write songs that are fun and entertaining. They pull that off best when they keep things melodic. At times it feels like they work a little too hard to stretch out of what is probably their natural comfort zone. It’s called a “comfort zone” for a reason, and they do their best work when operating where they seem to feel natural.
Don’t get me wrong, change and variety are necessary and can work well. It just feels like here, when they change, it is for the sake of change alone and it feels strained and not to fit with the rest of the music. To me they do their best when they are in the general vein of Rob Thomas and acts like that. There are a couple songs here that just don’t work well for me at all, and they are the ones that get the furthest away from that territory.
I like the energy and feel of the first song, “Open Up (Let Yourself Go.” It has some good use of multiple vocal lines. It’s a lot of fun, too. That always goes a long way for me. . “Please Come Home” doesn’t quite grab me as well as the one that came before it did. It does get a fast paced energy later, with a great beat. I like the vocals, too.
The vocals on “Directions” make me think of Rob Thomas in a lot of ways. That’s a good thing, because I am a big fan of Rob Thomas and all he does. This is another song with some fun energy. It has a bit of a backyard music session feeling to it. “Been There Before” is a bit like Rob Thomas, too. It’s not as big a connection as on the last song, but I still hear some of that on this song. This is a mellower song, but does get more rocking music later.
I don’t really like “Eyes Closed” all that much. It’s a mellow one that seems to lack direction a little to me. Otherwise it’s similar to the rest of the disc. It just doesn’t seem as well thought out and created.
The next song is “Young Vibe” and features Qung Zav. I like the hard rock guitar on the song. I also like the beat and energy. I’m not a huge fan of it besides that, though. It has a lot of rap and reggae built into it. Those aren’t really my kind of thing. Sure, I like some of those styles, but it has to be really special for me. This doesn’t clear that bar.
A lot of “Neptune” is screamed. I am not a fan of that kind of raw over the top, non musical style. I prefer music where people actually sing. It’s even better if they are on key. For that reason, I’d skip this one. I think the first sections of “Shadows,” when it’s in a mellow setting, again remind me of Rob Thomas. I like the powerful later parts with the hard rocking guitar, too. This is one of my favorites of the whole album.
A mellow instrumental, “Outro” drifts the listener out to sea. It’s pretty, but also short. I like it because it really does feel like floating on a raft in the water to me. It seems like a great way to end the album. If anything, I wish it were a little longer.
Usually first albums find artists striving and searching to find out what works best for them. That tends to create albums that can be a bit uneven. As an artist learns their craft better and becomes more comfortable in their own musical skin, they tend to get more consistent. These guys show that they have a zone in which they can work that creates effective music. There are a couple clunkers here, but beyond that, it is a strong first effort. Clunkers are expected and easy to overlook in the early parts of an artist’s career. They are sort of the growing pains of learning and living.
Review by Diane Hill
8 ½ out of 10