Album Review: Glass Pony’s “Washed Away”
Releasing their latest record, Washed Away, on June 23rd, Glass Pony effectively crafted an album that not only shows growth in their instrumental abilities, but also displays a great level of arrangement ability. All of the songs are dripping with jamband type grooves, while managing to blend several other genres in, such as pop, rock, and prog. The eight-track record makes for quite the expansion in the band’s repertoire, to say the very least.
A bombastic guitar chord progression starts “Bottom of the Ocean,” and thus the record, before the drums kick in. With a simple but snappy melody, the lyrics are delivered really well. A hybrid of pop, rock, and jamband, this is a perfect album opener that features and improves upon the things Glass Pony is known for: hook-laden instrumentation and vocals with a fairly relaxed groove. Oddly enough, there seems to be some 1980s influence in this track, at least to the ears of this listener.
On “Origami Soul,” track two, overdriven and reverb-soaked guitars start in tandem with the drums. Combining vocal phrasings with plenty of instrumental space in between lines gives the song lots of room to breathe. One thing that really catches my ear is the band’s use of chords that lie outside of the key signature, adding depth and an interesting layer to the composition. The solo performed on this track expands on their stylistic nature, showing development in the band’s sonic exploration and skill on their respective instruments.
The guitar harmonies and pounding kick drum in the intro of “Carnival of Babylon,” track three, make this piece instantly infectious. Repetitive in nature, the instrumentation is tied together nicely with an at times disco-esque drum groove. Although a lot of the sections sound similar, there is enough variety in dynamics, and the mix is so killer, that your mind wanders in all the right ways – almost as if you’re at a carnival.
The middle two songs of the record, “Spotlights” and “Doppler,” really make the album stand out. The longest tracks on the album, the envelope of the band’s arrangement abilities is pushed. Introducing more keyboard instrumentation into “Spotlights,” the tune opens up with a slow build amongst drums, organ, and guitars, before crashing head-first into a blistering fast chord progression and jam. The vocal sits well above the instrumentation, floating in a much slower fashion than the instruments underneath, creating a nice push-and-pull within the song. Entering a half-time feel near the end of the tune is an unexpected change of pace that made this listener’s ears perk back up.
With “Doppler,” a chordal bass intro – interesting enough by itself – is soon met with upbeat guitar harmonies, and a straightforward drum pattern. The guitar becomes more overdriven right before the vocal comes in. One of the things that makes this song really stand out is the fact this vocal is performed mainly by Chanda Dewey, who usually takes the role of backup in the band’s material. A chord progression that moves up in whole tones in rapid succession breaks way to an extended ethereal chanting section (the band is chanting the Latin phrase veni, vidi, vici, or I came, I saw, I conquered), and then an overall mystic-sounding instrumental part carries on from there. The key change near the end of the song brings the song back to its intro before several three-on-two rhythmic patterns close out the tune.
The last trilogy of songs, “Sonder,” “Bootstraw,” and “Upside Down,” make for quick listening experiences after the longer foray of the previous two songs. The vibes given off in “Sonder” by the guitars and organ in the intro section create an instant prog-rock sound before the band drifts back into its usual vein of jamband. There’s an extremely theatrical ending to this instrumental, one that drags out the conclusion with a very big finish. “Bootstraw,” a country jam song through-and-through, has a vocal is supported well by a train rhythm on the drums, as well as by the jaunty, overdriven guitar chords.
For the closing track, “Upside Down,” guitar leads and chords give way to a chill groove played across bass, drums, and organ. At time, the instruments really punch in, with well-placed accents that follow the vocal. An energetic and effective album closer, its short-but-sweet nature really ends the record on a high.
Whether it’s Eddie Hotaling’s voice and superb rhythm guitar work, Greg Pittz’ lead solos that really put the cherry on top of most compositions, Chanda Dewey’s drum work, Jeff Picarazzi’s grooving low-end, or Brian Mangini’s subtle additions on keyboard, there’s a lot to enjoy on Washed Away. Fans of rock, pop, jamband, and more are sure to get a kick out of the songs, finding them stuck in their head in no time at all. Check it out for yourself here.