Wednesday, January 22, 2014

U.S. Royalty Release Blue Sunshine

DC area band U.S. Royalty released their new album, Blue Sunshine, yesterday.  Though I’d heard most of these songs live, I’d been looking forward to hearing the album as a whole with headphones.  I wrote this a week or so ago off the top of my head, in the wee hours, upon hearing the album stream.  I thought I’d change it between then and release date but, I didn’t.  Perhaps I should have.  It just felt right to give you what I felt upon first listen.

Things kick off with “Into The Thicket” a track full of pretty harmonies and excellent finger picking.  It’s a nice start and is followed by the title track, that for some reason, has drawn the ire of my cat.  

The standout track is the primal and glorious “Lady In Waiting".  Yeah, some of the guitar bits remind me of “Edge Of Seventeen” but, so what...the guitar work on this song is among my favorite on the album.  Seriously, put on some headphones and just listen to the guitar.  If I had to play one track from this album for someone who had never heard U.S. Royalty, this would be the one.  

“Get On Home” contains my favorite bit of lyric on the whole album, possibly of all that they’ve written. ‘Well, I wasted some time ... and I’ve been on the road ... lost a few friends ... no fault of our own ... wasteland of the places I’ve come now to call my home .... and you still reappear in my thoughts and my dreams ... how to distinguish what’s real from my fears ... tender are the moments we realize we’re not alone.’  (I think I got that right!)  This song resonated with me on a personal level more than any other on the record.

Additional highlights, “Valley Of The Sun” and the vaguely creepy, yet superb, “De Profundis”.  The latter is an acoustic instrumental gem. 

As much as I like this album, the are a couple of moments I’m just not feeling.  “South Paradiso”, first of all, for some reason, Neil Diamond pops into my head while listening to it. Anyway... Maybe I'll feel differently live or a year down the line but right now, I need to put that song away and leave it alone.

Then, there’s “Slow Magic”. I'm on the fence on this one.  I'm not sure if I like it or strongly dislike it.  I just know at the moment, there's no in between for me.  One thing I do know, the intro bit (it pops up throughout the song as well), will never grow on me.  It gives me bad 80s flashbacks...please don't make me think about my big hair, bad fashion choices and clown make-up!  I feel like the album should come with a tambourine just so I can play along with this track.  At any rate, this song is what I imagine would happen if 70s era Stevie Nicks had a song-baby with 80s era Stevie Nicks.

"Breathless", I really liked this song when I heard it live.  But...yes there's a but.  Something about the recorded version doesn't feel right to me.  I'm not sure why.  The lyrics are solid and it's well played but, I was left feeling a little, for lack of a better description, let down. Am I the only one that is reminded of Cheap Trick when listening to this one?  Probably.

Overall, Blue Sunshine is a nice, solid body of work.  It's saturated with sounds of the 70s with bold sprinkles of the 80s.  It reminds me of listening to Grandma's three button radio as a kid and The Midnight Special and Don Kirshner's.  The only thing missing is the crackling hiss and pop of vinyl which should be satisfied with their white vinyl version (scheduled to be released mid-February).  It reminds me of all of that while cleverly not sounding dated and crafting something that's all their own.  Where their previous album Mirrors was more raw and sexy, Blue Sunshine is more focused, polished and pop.  And that folks, is just fine with me.

Track List

  • Into The Thicket
  • Blue Sunshine
  • Lady In Waiting
  • Breathless
  • Slow Magic
  • Valley Of The Sun
  • Only Happy In The Country
  • Get On Home
  • South Paradiso
  • De Profundis
  • Two Worlds