The End of America- Shakey

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Sunday, May 5, 2013

Folk/Americana trio The End of America impressed me with their debut album Steep Bay a few years back. The group had gone for a stripped down approach and had recorded their material in a cabin in the woods of upstate New York, and the result was a very personal sounding album. Since that time the group has gained a few additional members and put together their sophomore effort Shakey. This time around the arrangements are much fuller, but The End of America has still attempted to use as few takes as possible to give the material a spontaneous feel. It feels a bit different than its predecessor, but the warm feeling generated by the melodic instrumentals once again makes this group able to leave an impression on the listener.

Shakey was recorded live, and as a result it has the same kind of rough around the edges feel as Steep Bay. But it’s evident right from the beginning that the band has been expanded, as even when the band mellows out the instrumentation feels much fuller than before. The instrumentals strike a nice balance between much louder numbers and melodic spaced out arrangements that explore a laid back style. As the material was recorded in as few takes as possible, there is a sense of spontaneity to each piece and I often could feel the chemistry between the members as these takes sound very tight and well composed. However, The End of America has once again kept things fairly short as this nine song album spans about 28 minutes in length. The last three tracks explore longer track lengths when compared to the rest of the effort, and it is at this point that the instrumentation seems to produce the strongest hooks. This doesn’t mean that the earlier numbers don’t have standout moments, but a few of them seem to end just a bit too quickly and I would still like to see this group let their songs stretch out just a bit further overall.

The original three members of The End of America have once again contributed vocal arrangements, and this continues to be one of my favorite aspects of their music. Each one has a fairly different pitch that complements the other, and as a result Shakey has some powerful harmonies that instantly grab your attention and draw you to the material. Steep Bay at times felt like friends singing around a campfire, and by comparison this effort finds them sounding more like a band where the parts are switched off on and each singer is given their time to shine. In this way the group feels a bit more developed than before and one really gets the impression that they spent a good deal of time figuring out each vocalist’s talents in order to get the best possible sound.

The End of America gives off the impression that they have grown as a band on Shakey, and despite the fact that the album title suggests otherwise their compositions are tight and polished. I would like to see them expand on some of their ideas a bit further as some of the tracks do seem to end before they hit their peak, but as a whole this remains an enjoyable slice of folk/Americana that has some enticing guitar hooks and powerful vocal harmonies. It’s exciting to see these guys progress, and while they’re not quite my favorite just yet they appear to be trying new ideas and becoming more ambitious with each release so I’ll be expecting even bigger things next time around.

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