Sunday, October 21, 2007

EP Review: Calendar For Preston

by Dave Schaefer

Calendar For Preston is further along than they should be, considering they’ve only been writing songs for a little over a year. Their EP shows a lot of potential for this hometown band. Joey Sexton (guitar), Tom Gutman (bass & keys) and Ryan Harris (drums) pull together the music with frontman Stephen Jordan doing lyric-writing duties. Produced with Jay Hammond at Blue Moon Studios here in Cowtown, the EP exhibits a surprising musical maturity that I was wasn’t expecting.

The music comes off as tight and exhibits very well the talents of Sexton, Gutman and Harris. Jordan’s voice matches the musical style and sounds really good on this recording. The songwriting is exceptional. I believe these guys will move quickly beyond this EP and create songs that may well have more depth both musically and lyrically.

That’s not to say it’s perfect. Jordan’s voice can get a bit whiney at times, and his enunciation needs work -- I still haven’t been able to figure out all the lyrics of half the songs. And three of the five songs have strange bridges that don’t flow with the songs very well, as though they just decided to play a completely different -- and much slower -- song in the midst of a really good tune. It leaves you feeling as though there’s a musical (if not lyrical) hiccup.

But those negatives are outweighed by the positives. I like this EP and my suggestion is for you to seek it out and pick it up. If you already like this band -- or are an introspective melancholic -- you shouldn’t be without it. If you have no clue as to who Calendar For Preston are, check out their MySpace page and listen to some of the tunes. If you want to get your hands on the EP, you’ll have to go to one of their shows, currently that’s the only way it’s available. They’re working on possibly making the songs downloadable from their MySpace page and at in the near future.

Here’s a brief critique of each of the tracks:

Paint By Numbers
This song builds with a great combo of beat and lyrics, though it loses some steam with an odd intro into the chorus. The chorus, however, is excellent and puts the song back on track. The bridge here doesn’t work, slowing the song down considerably and cuts into the power and fun of the song. But overall, it’s a good intro to the EP.

Message Board
The beats and music of this song are superior to the not-with-the-beat, jagged lyrics, but it hits a high with the chorus. Again with the weird, slow bridge that brings the song down, only to speed up to a final chorus. I can’t help wish the bridge just wasn’t there. I have to admit, though, this is the song that I’ve most been finding myself singing to myself without realizing it. Bridge or no bridge, the more I listen to this track, the more I like it.

Trauma Teen
A similar feel to “Message Board,” it gets its own sound about 40 seconds into it. Again, the chorus hits the mark. I find myself really liking the guitar work on this one, though I can’t put my finger on exactly why. This is one of the songs where the bridges actually work and work very well.

Popping Pills
The EP’s best song, this track has angst to the nth degree. A self-tortured soul lamenting his sad existence in the wake of a broken relationship. I find that this is the one that I find myself singing along with the most, even though I usually despise this kind of song, which shows how good songwriting can sometimes transcend. Maybe it’s because Jordan sings it with a mix of subtle irony and just enough emotion not to make it over the top. This is lyrically the best of the EP. Everything works. And no wacky bridge! Woohoo!

Of the songs on this EP, this is the least of a standout. But it’s by no means a bad song, it just sounds a lot like other stuff without being significantly unique. Some of this may be simply because it comes last on the EP and you can’t help but compare it to the higher quality of the previous songs.

My last critique: I wish there were more tracks, so my officemates didn’t have to endure listening to the same five songs over and over and over again. In the meantime, I guess I’ll have to go see Calendar For Preston when they’re playing in town and hope for a full-length soon.

Future shows:
10/25: Lazy Chameleon, Powell, OH
11/3: McCarthy’s, Cleveland
11/9: Slapsy Maxie’s, Columbus

[Update: Apparently my reference to Stephen's voice sounding occasionally "whiney" has created a bit of confusion. It's not that I don't like his voice (I very much do) and how it works with the songs, because it works very well. There's just a few moments where he gets a bit too stylized with his voice instead of letting it stand on its own merit. If I didn't like Stephen's voice, I wouldn't have listened to the EP 21 times
(according to my iPod) just since Friday. :-) -- dave ]

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