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CD Reviews – December 2013

CLYDE FROG – YELL OUT (no label) Formed by five college students and named after one of Eric Cartman’s stuffed animals from the South Park cartoon, Williamsport’s Clyde Frog blends elements of modern indie rock with retro flavors on their second CD, Yell Out. The Clyde Frog cast of singer Tess Marshall, guitarists Dylan Rockoff and Torey Harding, bassist Garrett Gaetano and drummer Chris Kohler merge R&B, doo-wop, blues and even surf rock with infectious grooves and jangly guitar work to craft a fresh and invigorating sound over Yell Out’s 10 tracks. Marshall, Harding and Rockoff share lead singing duties; each can capably carry a tune on Clyde Frog’s catchy melodies, and all three blend their voices for some impressive harmonies. The Harding-fronted “Do You Ever Think of Me” commences the disc as a classic-flavored soul ballad with a big chorus, while the Marshall-sung R&B piece “Gonna Find Another Man” creeps along a ‘60s-geared organ riff, and “One, Two Three” offers an updated slant on a modern doo-wop ballad. “Dance Across the Sun” bounces along a boisterous tempo, while “Harlem Girl” offers hard-nosed soul, and “Stand Up Wake Up” rides a driving groove and irresistible chorus harmonies. Marshall fronts the group’s country-rocking entry “Stay Away,” and she belts out the voice on the group’s surf-toned rocker “Bad Road.” Clyde Frog mixes their flavors well, but it’s their knack for catchy and memorable song hooks that powers Yell Out. The vocal performances are strong, and the group’s enthusiastic instrumental chops lift each song to the ceiling and beyond. The production and mix are bright and full, enabling these songs to take off and shine. Yell Out is a fun album that will make listeners yell out with joy, as Clyde Frog states their case for being one of the freshest rising band names on the state’s music scene.

JD EICHER & THE GOODNIGHTS – INTO PLACE (Rock Ridge Music) By the sound of Into Place, the third album by Pittsburgh’s J.D. Eicher & the Goodnights, it becomes clear that group namesake J.D. Eicher has ascended into place as a top notch pop songcrafter, and his band has settled into place as seasoned, efficient musicians. A happy vibe, irresistible song hooks, eloquent and thoughtful lyrics, clear vocals and tasteful performances all converge into place among eleven remarkable numbers through the album’s duration. Front and center, Eicher’s voice is crisp and understandable, and he sings his clever wordplays with personality, feeling and sincerity. His lyrics are observational, personable, witty and even literary in scope; the gearshifting disc opener “Ode to the Underdog” celebrates those who struggle to gain their footholds in life. Perhaps the most infectious number on the album, “Give It Up” finds Eicher satisfied with who he is. He wittingly calls out a litany of everyday grievances on the tongue-in-cheek “You’ve Got a Lot of Growing Up to Do,” and celebrates a time traveler on the whimsical “Edgar Greene’s Time Machines.” Eicher & the Goodnights welcome O.A.R. sax player Jerry DePizzo and guest singer Joy Ike on the playfully bluesy “Lately Lady.” The group shows a more serious side several times; the acoustic ode “People” laments those who disappoint us, the sullen “Oh My God” offers a soul-searching prayer, and the album-ending title song double-shot “Into Place” is Eicher’s ultimate realization of his niche in life. Keyboardist Ben Portz, bassist Jim Merhaut and drummer Dylan Kollat efficiently and tastefully support Eicher with clean, bright arrangements and fills; and Dustin Burnett’s production and engineering gives the set a crisp sheen and polish. Into Place marks the ultimate arrival of J.D. Eicher & the Goodnights as something truly special. This album offers delectable ear candy pop rock we only wish we could hear on a radio these days…Good night!

IT IS WRITTEN – IT IS WRITTEN (no label) Since 2007, State College’s It Is Written has been forging their no-nonsense brand of hardcore-laced heavy metal across the state’s stages. On their ten-song, self-titled CD, It Is Written – lead vocalist/guitarist Ken Hawkins, bassist/singer Bob Krebs and drummer/singer Darl Johnstonbaugh – merge fierce and terse heavy metal tenacity with progressive-leaning and dynamic song arrangements, resulting in an intense sound positioned comfortably between Pantera and Lamb Of God. It Is Written’s words are topical and observational about the current path of humanity and the world. Life, death and the hereafter guide the themes of tracks like the escalating crasher “Bed of Misery” and “Sworn Judgment.” Militaristic minds and global conflict concern the group on brash numbers like “War for Years” and “Lambs to the Slaughter.” It Is Written explores a murderous dream on “Homicidal By Sunrise,” and explores the symbolism of the witchhunt on the dark disc-closer “Burn the Witch.” It Is Written goes for broke and their aggression keeps things constantly exciting. Hawkins’ Phil Anselmo-informed feral howl is front and center in the mix; although fierce and over-the-top, his sense of melody guides each track and provides cohesion through the disc’s course. The group does an effective job generating the metal maelstrom as a trio; some of the songs could benefit from a thicker mix. But in all, It Is Written convincingly shows their teeth on their debut, and their uncompromising brand of thrashy metal shows that this band is moshpit-ready and capable.

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