Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Shofar - s/t (2017)

Written by William Elgin, posted by blog admin

Minneapolis has always been a hotbed for indie rock bands of various stripes and the five member outfit Shofar is set to solidify their place among their ranks with this self-titled EP release. It marks a return to activity for Larry Hagner's project since their 2005 release Turn and Hagner's vocals and songwriting skill have lost nothing after the long layoff. The six song effort, in all honesty, comes closer to being a short album by modern standards rather than an EP effort and there’s a level of diversity in the band’s songwriting here supporting such a point of view. They’ve perfected every rock pose and strut in the book while peppering these familiar elements with a message and personality all their own bringing a welcome degree of lyrical intelligence to their songs giving the release more impact. These are intensely human and ruthlessly direct tunes, even at their most melodic, and arresting thanks to the conviction with which Shofar sings and plays. It’s artful abandon, forever skirting the line between energy and full on raucousness, and worth every second.

They aren’t shy about flexing their six string firepower and come barreling towards listeners with precious little preamble on “Running”. Shofar, fortunately, aren’t one dimensional enough to exclusively rely on a power rock attack and shift into another gear for, arguably, the EP’s finest chorus. The band’s vocals are another key in bringing added color to their approach, emotive and melodic, yet commercial as well and a point of entry for novice listeners. There are few guitar heroics on the opener and even less with the EP’s second track “Powerman”. Shofar’s commercial inclinations are a little more pronounced with this track and it has, in general, a much lighter touch than its predecessor. Backing vocals are more of a consideration beginning with this track, but the lead vocal is unmistakably effective on its own and only enriched by extra voices.

“Shades of Grey” will find favor with many as the EP’s most lyrically evolved number and continues much of the same music mood we heard with the second track. “Powerman”, however, was a song looking out whereas “Shades of Grey” is a song looking within and the band’s writing shows the same charged potential for engaging its audience on each cut. “Hands Down” has another strong contender for the EP’s finest chorus and generates a deceptive amount of energy considering its mid-tempo pace. Dynamics are much more at the forefront of the band’s concerns with the track “Countdown” as they spend much of the song’s first half building an inexorable musical head of steam before the guitar leaves a mark on the song and Shofar ratchets up the dramatics to a higher gear than before. The presence of piano as an important instrument further sets the song apart. Shofar ends their self-titled EP with “The Coming”, easily the most experimental moment on the release and a resounding success. The band’s traditional instrumentation is in place, but working in a much different style than we become accustomed to over the previous five songs – Shofar explores a near psychedelic texture here and the vaguely hallucinatory air has a slow, graceful elegance.

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