The Utilities | Heavy South
Family Average: 5/7
Look out followers, friends, and other people we force to read this blog, we've got a rocking, southern-music-loving Canadian band for you to feast your eyes and ears upon. Confused? Good. The family busted out their best Canadian Tuxedos for The Utilities' latest album, Heavy South, and boy oh boy is it heavy.
Ok, not really, it's actually quite a pleasurable and light listen. Even Kevin liked it. Yeah...KEVIN.
Listen along on Spotify and read on to find out what the family had to say:
Hey neat a Canadian band! Interesting how someone with an album named Heavy South is from a place so North of Me. That's got nothing to do with their music, just something I want to point out.
There is a familiar warm “hum” underneath each one of the songs in this album, and I can get behind that. It’s that warm kind of feeling you get when you have had just the right amount of whisky. I am going to talk about the first track and trust me, I’m aware that I often make mention of the opening track in these reviews, but I think that comes from some kind of psychological rule or something. First tracks are important; it should serve to set the tone for what is to come. The opening track here is tight; immediately I am given the impression that these guys have a superb control over their sound. Every other track that followed kept with this. Way to go guys. Beyond the first song my favorites are the slow ones, particularly “Gasoline Trigger”—oh gosh I love that one.
This seems to hang in a liminal space between some folk and southern-rock. The vocals gave me very subtle Neil Young references (sorry, Neil), but felt way more like twangy southern pop-rock...if that's even a thing. While it skews towards nostalgic folk, the album is bouncy and punchy. It totally fits the whole contemporary roots revival vibe going on these days. I think I got the gist of the album after the fourth track, so admit I did lose interest. That being said, I appreciated that many of the songs had a slow build up, yet remained light and tempered. The lyrics showcased songwriting chops, the melodies felt complex, and the production seemed tight. They've got a distinct sound, and clearly know what they're about. Men in thick beards, glasses, and heavy flannels in Portland will probably flock to 'em. ** No offense to men in thick beards, glasses, and heavy flannels in Portland.
Musicians come in all shapes and sizes. But I like to put them into two categories: live or studio musicians. Somewhere in the middle there is the “utility player”, musicians that can do both. They have a polished quality, but you can easily see them playing live. I’d say The Utilities fall under this medium ground.
Their title track “Born to Work” describes them well. This is a hard-working band. One of my favorite tracks was “Gasoline Trigger”, it was a mellow country song with nice composition. “Deep Freeze” had a strong baseline, and I really liked the change up in the middle.
Overall this band had cohesive composition, great flow, and a good blend of vocals/instruments. My only criticism would be that the music was very predictable, what Patty would call “Safe”. Reminds me a little of Prep school kids out on the town. They have the goal to “go crazy” but you know it's never going to get out of hand. Still, let's hear it for the Canadian Rockers! I guess I would give it a:
Yeah yeah yeah we got some tunes here. I woke up this morning to the family playing this album in the kitchen and as I joined them for breakfast I genuinely couldn’t tell if this was a submission or from an established artist (I mean that as a compliment). The music was quite inviting; they didn't really rock the house but they didn't really want to which was okay in my book. I never found myself rolling my eyes during listening to any of the tracks which is a common occurrence, so you got that award now.
As a whole, Heavy South was approachable but complex enough to leave someone satisfied. Such a great and vital mix. I loved “Hangdog.” You guys rock all the way up to 4 rocks out of 7. (7 being 7 rocks)
This album starts off right away with a great track, "Born to work". It becomes pretty clear this is their mantra as they continue working hard for the listener as the album rolls on. Some of the tracks, like this 1st one reminded me a bit of Jakob Dylan's band, "The Wallflowers". So it definitely, for me, had that 90's alt/root rock vibe. If I were to pick a favorite track, I think it would be "Gasoline Trigger". This song is later on in the album and I just felt as though they were driving forward towards this song. It encompasses all the things I enjoyed about the previous songs.
Overall a very pleasant effort. Proof that if you work hard and stay true to your vision, the result you are looking for will follow.