Unchained Music Blog

Unchained Music Blog

Monday, February 5, 2018

Shofar - s/t (2017)

Written by Lance Wright, posted by blog admin

Shofar made some waves in the indie scene with their initial two studio outings in the early 2000’s but fell silent as a recording outfit for a number of years. Their return to the fray finds the music world obviously forever changed, but Shofar has evolved as well and there’s a deeper maturity to these new recordings than we heard on their admittedly fine older material. Songwriter and lead singer Larry Hagner inhabits these songs with a strong presence, but he’s backed with some equally fine secondary vocals that help enhance both the accessibility and appeal of the songwriting and performances. They carry on in the fine rock tradition that’s part of the Minneapolis area’s history with a great mix of the classic and modern marking their warm sound. Melody plays an underrated role, as well, in their winning presentation, but repeated listens to this self-titled EP emphasizes how important it is to satisfying the band’s ambitions.

Passion is never in short supply. The desperation and claustrophobia coloring much of “Running” alternates with moments of uneasy calm, but there’s a sense pervading the music that the singer is a survivor. It’s a brave number, as well, thanks to its potential to overwhelm, but Hagner and his band mates orchestrate the changes with full knowledge of the song’s power and play it accordingly. “Powerman” is a tune where the power dynamics of the opener are radically de-emphasized, but the restless jangle and forward motion of the tune makes a big impact on listeners. Hagner’s voice is joined by his band mates at key points to round off a truly winning number. The third track “Shades of Grey” is cut from a similar musical mold with some extra guitar punch and has the sort of songwriting intelligence longtime fans of Shofar will be used to and newcomers will find so appealing about the band’s music.

“Hands Down” is another high point on the EP bringing our a more rambunctious facet of the band’s character while still sounding recognizably like Shofar. Hagner’s particularly memorable on this tune with a singing performance completely dominating the track. There’s a sharp shift in subject matter and delivery with the EP’s last two songs. The first, “Countdown”, has a rather dire outlook that the musical arrangement makes a little more palatable while the concluding number on the EP, “The Coming”, isn’t far removed from the band’s material from the first go around in the century’s dawning decade. Shofar stands apart for a number of reasons – the sheer creativity and exuberance coming through on every performance, the sharply tuned lyrical content, and the obvious attention to vocal excellence separate them from the pack and make them one of the more memorable acts working in the indie scene today.  

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