Shake a Symphony - EP
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Finish Ticket are a quirky bunch. Their studio sessions are notoriously bizarre (if their Facebook page statuses don’t lie). They paint their faces with tribal patterns at shows and often set up face-painting booths on the venue floors. And they possess a remarkable ability to communicate with their audience--at some of their shows, it almost becomes hard to distinguish band members from spectators. Yet for all of this, they are a fairly conventional pop group, and they rarely stray far from the beaten path. And on Shake a Symphony, the Alameda sextet’s second release, only a very tiny portion of their live energy is captured--although they did succeed in creating a decent alt-pop album.
The first song on the EP, “Her Way Out,” is a good intro. It’s dramatic but low-key at the same time, thanks mainly to the production. It soon segues into “We’ll Be Okay,” the album’s highlight and a great cheer-the-hell-up anthem. The soft keyboards and melancholic-yet-funky bass give the song a strange sense of anthemic beauty as triple-octave singer Brendan Hoye unleashes his soaring holler.
The other songs, however, are a different story. The two remaining rockers--the live behemoth “New York” and the arcade-meets-barroom barnstormer “Hyrule”--sound a bit dulled compared to the crowd-catapulting live versions that won me over. “New York” is a good song that inexplicably does not quite pack the punch it was clearly intended to, and while “Hyrule” actually comes close to capturing Hoye’s true vocal power at several points in the song, but those spidery synths complicate things a bit. “Miss Woe, I’m Glad” is a strangely named power ballad--inspired, perhaps, by Kevin Sullivan’s Miss Blue and Miss Water?--with some tough vocals and soulful keyboards but an otherwise tepid vibe. “Rivers” is the best of the four, a melancholy ballad with fine lyrics, pop potential, and sweet, vulnerable vocals from Mr. Hoye--and while it does not have any distinctive characteristics to make it truly remarkable, it’s still a well-crafted rock n’ soul ballad.
While this album may not live up to my expectations, I am no way dismissing the band. They still put on one of the best live shows of any “Rebirth” group, and they have the remarkable ability to create a miniature utopian environment at just about any show they play. While this is a fine offering, I believe the group is truly in their element when they are trying to amp you up. As Finish Ticket’s members head off to places abroad to finish their educations, I can only wonder how college life will affect them and their music. Will they free up a bit under the knowledge they are liberated from the duties of a hardworking college student and can let their pent-up energy out with the dudes in the band? Will they lose touch with the Rebirth (god forbid?) And now for my favorite review-closing phrase: only time will tell.