Growing Old With Rock and Roll

Growing Old With Rock and Roll

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Shofar - s/t (2017)

Written by Jason Hillenburg, posted by blog admin

Minneapolis based five piece rockers Shofar’s new self-titled EP release ended 2017 on a strong note for the band and seems poised to position them for an impressive 2018 run. The six song collection is a well produced affair belying its indie status and presents the band’s songwriting and musical strengths in warm, visceral surroundings certain to engage their audience with ease. The songs are, obviously, stage ready compositions as well and distinguished by a level of intelligence that matches up well with the passion and attitude they bring with this recording. The EP cover is illustrative, in some ways, of the band’s primary strength – a focused avoidance of any self indulgence and, instead, a muscular invocation of everything that makes rock music such an urgent vehicle for communicating with listeners. It's an auspicious return for the band and singer/songwriter Larry Hagner since their last studio recording 2005's Turn. The playing, singing, and songwriter surge with the same passion and sense of purpose perpetually defining the band's work.

The first track “Running” commences with a smattering of synth sounds before transitioning into a crushing guitar driven groove. The band quiets things for the individual verses and the vocals come through with an unusual amount of clarity and musicality for typical entries in this style. Shofar’s talent for alternating passages of light and shadow sets them apart from many contemporaries and “Running” quite clearly illustrates that skill. The chorus packs emotional, bone-rattling punch. Guitar is important to the EP’s second song “Powerman”, but this performance finds Shofar employing a very different style than we encountered on the first track. The guitars eschew the pulverizing power chord crunch of “Running” in favor of airier, more melodic playing that isn’t nearly as claustrophobic. The absence of that white-knuckle quality from this tune is the aural equivalent of giving listeners a moment to catch their breath. They continue in a similar vein with the track “Shades of Grey”, but they vary the approach some with more of an emphasis on vocal harmonies. Studio confection or not, the harmonies are on point and the guitar work nicely complements them. It’s definitely the EP’s most radio-friendly moment thus far.

They echo the synth-laden opening of the EP’s first song for the introduction to “Hands Down” but soon shift into another heavy guitar track. Shofar builds the song around a slashing, simple riff that’s nonetheless very effective, but the song falters slightly with a chorus unfortunately hitting with none of the wallop we experienced on the earlier “Running”, but the lead vocal is the EP’s best to this point. The band explores more melodic territory than before on the EP’s final two cuts. “Countdown” benefits from the presence of piano laced throughout the track while there’s a more atmospheric edge, courtesy of synthesizer touches, on the finale “The Coming”. Both tunes, together and separately, make for a logical ending to the album as they deemphasize the guitar heavy aspect of the release’s first half in favor of a more nuanced, considered approach while still seamlessly sounding like the same band we’ve come to know over the previous four tracks. Shofar might have mixed things up with at least one uptempo number, but their self titled EP firmly establishes them as one of the indie scene’s more promising rock acts and blazes a trail to an even brighter future ahead.

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