AUG 6, 2010
From the opening acoustic strums of Shoulders of Giants’s self-titled debut (2010 – self released), listeners get a good sense of what they’re in for throughout the entirety of the album. The introductory song “Code of a Madman” spirals in with a few layers of acoustic guitar, equally acoustic bass and skittering mid-tempo rock drumming. Much of what is to follow adheres to a similar form, each track taking on slight stylistic touches to set them apart from falling into inherent sameness. Overall, the ever present acoustic guitar and the particular style of David Wilke’s drum fills makes much of the album seem burdened with a Dave Matthews Band overtone which could be off-putting to those not predisposed to that particular take on rock.
Brad Hammond, one half of the NYC based violin and guitar duo Brazz Tree as well the songwriter behind Shoulders of Giants, is certainly skilled at what he does. The deft guitar work serving as the spine of “Above The Crowd” is certainly something played by a man who, as Brad seems to be from his reputation, someone who understands the complexity of the guitar. Overall the album stays pretty relaxed; even with “Alive,” one of the more aggressive songs on Shoulders of Giants, the pinnacle is only fueled by a brief, electric guitar squawl accompanying a later chorus. As the album never really gets the blood rising for too long, it seems the goal of Shoulders of Giants is to keep it mellow. The finer moments on the album embrace that calm fully and incorporate a delicate swell of cello, provided by Marika Hughes. This affords the music a beneficial depth, particularly with the somber “Through It All.” The added warmth that the instrument brings helps fend the album’s acoustic domination.
For what shortcomings the album has, it is smartly produced. Each new element added to the base stew of drums, guitar and vocals is treated well, as with the subtle keyboards in “Pain is our Measure” and the aforementioned cello. Shoulders of Giants fall close in tone to indie rock successes The Dodos, but the difference lies in where each band finds their influences. The shortfall of this band is that it feels like they’re pulling from less unconventional references, with Tom Crowley’s sometimes plainted vocals and the straightforward drumming. There are definitely people that this will appeal to, as the aesthetic at work speaks to an era of acoustic guitar rock that rests in the past.
Shoulders of Giants finds enough variations on the midtempo acoustic form to keep from getting stale over the course of its 28 minute runtime. Those who gravitate to their sound with little effort will find a smartly produced record that will sate their needs for acoustic jams to accompany their contemplative moments, but it might be a harder sell for those seeking something different.
Previously published at Knocks From The Underground.