Great new band, with a diverse sound
Secondhand Utopia, a band based out of Flint, MI, debuts with an ambitious album, spanning across multiple styles, singers, and genres. Each song brings something new to the table, whether it be the immersive complexity of “Symphony of Life” or the stripped down garage-band grit of “Hermes the Thief”. Though at a lengthy 55 minutes, with the different styles and singers, the album is never repetitive and each new song will keep you interested. Here’s a song-by-song breakdown:
1) “If Nice Guys Finish Last, You’re First” opens the album with a fast paced, rambling tirade of heavily distorted electric guitars, angsty lyrics filled with twists of irony, and even an angry mob at the end of the track.
2) “Symphony of Life” introduces the first guest singer, Angela Lee, to deliver a beautiful vocal track to compliment a rich, full-bodied sound carefully constructed with everything from acoustic guitars to synthesizers to create an enveloping experience.
3) “Symphony” runs right into “The Achievement of Flight”, and upbeat blast of power pop with another guest singer, Grace Hildensperger, and her powerful voice leading the charge alongside wailing guitar solos, a 70s- style organ, and a slick indie rock riff.
4) “The Wicked” takes the sparkling afterglow of “Achievement” and turns in on its head. With heavily distorted megaphone vocals in the verse, and relentlessly fast-paced lyrics in the chorus, the band spits out a powerful rant against injustice.
5) “Greyfish” brings lead singer Hannah Alexander to center stage for the first time on the album, where she delivers a haunting vocal track about disenchantment and pollution reminiscent of the Cranberries. Grace joins in during the chorus to add a bit more power to the vocal track.
6) “Masquerade of Fools” takes the songwriting style in a completely different direction. It starts out as a quiet, measured waltz, slowly building up into an explosive, multilayered outtro of multiple vocal tracks overlaid upon various distorted, acoustic, and filtered guitars.
7) “The Loner” is a dark, acoustic narrative track the singer uses his bass tones to reflect the stoic loneliness of a wayward traveler. The music is heavily based on the early sounds of folk and blues with an intricately picked chord progression and sparse accompaniment.
8) In a cross between early Modest Mouse and Clash-style punk rock, “Hermes the Thief” brings bassist Sean Reed to center stage in this swiftly changing narrative of another archetypal character. Sean even lends his impersonation talents in the final part of the song as the hopeless officers giving chase over the radio intercom.
9) “Someone is There” is the album’s 7-minute long epic. Heavily influenced by shoe-gazer rock like the Smashing Pumpkins and the Cure, “Someone” goes through several movements detailing various stages of social alienation. Despite its length, very little of the song repeats itself, each new movement incorporating some new riff or unique sound.
10) “Things Can Only Get Better From Here” is rousing indie pop song, complete with tongue-in-cheek lyrics, a catchy chorus, and even an off-kilter choir at the end. The song brings out multiple acoustic and electric layers, even throwing in a banjo and a Wilco-esque guitar solo.
11) The unofficial end of the album, “Seasonal Affective Disorder” abandons the loud/quiet dynamic that defined so much of the rest of the album, instead opting for a carefully crafted arrangement, adding banjo, synthesized strings, a piercing, soulful guitar solo, and plenty of acoustic guitar tracks to build a sound that captures the mood of the cold mid-winter months of Michigan.
12) “Hand it to You” is a lo-fi track in every sense of the word. The spirit of Jack White is channeled in this simplistic, blues-driven tongue-in-cheek love song, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar and some impromptu percussion.