A review of Wayne Szalinski’s self titled EP

Winter in East Lansing definitely extended its welcome into the territory of the next season, and gave a big final push, but the sunlight of spring could not be contained. At the time of this writing, the feeling of warmth and rebirth is flooding the campus of Michigan State.

 

Like most people, I think it is time to get into some new music to bring a fresh start to this new season, and I don’t think a record could be more perfect to listen to while watching the world around us come back to life than Wayne Szalinkzi’s self titled EP. The whole album harkens to the sound of bands like Band of Horses or The Dear Hunter, but with an enthusiastic sense of passion that is often found in groups who are fighting to carve a name for themselves. From start to finish it carries a sense of refinement, polish, and comfort.

The first track, “Thanks for Nothing, Becky Gelke”, starts the journey off in a way that I didn’t expect, but was thoroughly impressed by. A little bit of background; I’m a bit of a metalhead, so I’m used to hearing music in odd time signatures, tunes that play with what the listener expects to hear rhythmically and offer a surprising twist. Because of that, I can’t rave on enough about how cool I think the intro lick to this song is. Its off time feel has a definite different pulse than what the listener expects, but it is incorporated so artfully that it feels natural. The problem with many songs that utilize this technique is that they come across as forced, but the band pulls this off so well that I couldn’t help but smile as I heard the wilting sound of the 7 beat measures.  Lyrically, this song definitely beckons the listener to look inwards and think about the city that many of us call home. The soaring vocals over top of the grooving licks set the tone for an album that does not disappoint.

I’m always a fan of bands who incorporate instrumentation into their music that is exciting and interesting to the listener. Playing with the textures of sounds is one of the coolest ways to bring life to music, and the addition of the trombones in the second song on this EP, “These Are the Layers of Bandages”, work beautifully. This song has a flow to it that can only be described as a journey. Starting with the trombones leading to the somber verse, and finally building up to a group vocal shout of triumph. This song contains a blistering strummed guitar riff that once again brings one word to mind; groove. This group has a way of combining somber vocal melodies with grooves from the rhythm section that makes these tracks a joy to listen to, as they tug at the heartstrings but also provide the headbobbing rhythms that are often difficult to find in this genre.  This song combines warm music with serious lyrical content, which is similar to how the spring weather brings us sunlight and bright days but reminds us that the summer is not here yet, because every step outside is greeted with a chilly breeze.

The fast-paced beats of the second track lead us into the calmer and more introspective finale to the EP, “Atrophy for Lethargy”. To me, there is a perfect metaphor to describe the transition from the second track to the third one. Just a few weeks ago, I attended the Macklemore concert at our own Breslin Center, and after enjoying the majority of the show, ended up leaving a few minutes before finale of the encore to beat the rush. This third song reminds me of that first breath of fresh air you take when leaving a building packed with people into the brisk winter outside the arena. It’s the mentality of a person that knows that inside people are losing their minds with excitement and enthusiasm, but this individual is content to enjoy the moment of solitude and calmness. I’m sure everyone has experienced this introspective moment when leaving a party at some point in their lives. The singer has a knack for recognizing the direction the instrumental section is headed in and helping to create some amazing phrasing.  The passion of his words can be heard in the last line of the song, “I am a monster, and I made it so”. That is what transcends sound and makes art; when genuine sincerity is combined with music to a beautiful result and this is a great example of that.

For me personally, this record defines the sound of spring. Honest musicianship and melodies that seem as If to provide an aural example of what it is like to watch the leaves turn green after a cold winter. The interesting grooves, smooth guitar tones, and dynamic vocal melodies combine to create a strong record. “Wayne Szalinski” leaves the listener feeling content and calm, with an introspective attitude that goes hand in hand with the season. The birds are starting to chirp in the mornings, the sun doesn’t set till much later in the evening, and spring is well on its way to taking hold in East Lansing. I think this album is the perfect soundtrack for these last few weeks of the semeseter. Wayne Szalinksi will be playing in Muskegon at The Donut Hole on the 20th.

Check out a special performance of “Sweetness“!

Written by Nikhil Rao

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