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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Spanish Channel - Brooklyn, Off Atlantic

The Spanish Channel - Brooklyn, Off Atlantic
2011, Dogburn Records

Brooklyn quartet The Spanish Channel plays a blend of melodic PowerPop with one foot planted squarely in the mid-1980's and a lot of modern alternative rock influences.  Jamie Garamella (lead vox/guitar); Lauren Stockner (lead guitar/vox); Tyler Phillips (bass/vox) and Bruce Hordon (drums/vox) have a talent for creating catchy rock songs with 4 part harmonies, big hooks and guitar solos right out of the classic rock era.  The Spanish Channel returns in 2011 with their sophomore album, Brooklyn, Off Atlantic, a collection of ten songs produced by Tim Mitchell (Sting, Robert Plant, Band Of Horses) and the band.   The new album continues on the course set on 2008's Upside Downer while showing some definite growth as a band.

Brooklyn, Off Atlantic opens with "People Pleaser", an infectious bit of guitar-driven rock n roll with a distinctive 1980's pop sensibility.  Entertaining and danceable, the melody in the chorus is very reminiscent of that in Weezer's Buddy Holly.  "Strapped For Cash" is the working Indie artist's lament, featuring a memorable chorus right out of the 1980's.  "Missed Opportunity" laments not taking offered chances and missing out on a girl that might have been perfect for him.  Featuring expansive guitar work from Stockner and spot-on vocals from Garamella, this is bound to be a fan favorite. 

"Everything's Gone" holds some sonic treats for listeners.  Stockner's extended guitar solo recalls some of the later work of David Gilmour and the band's four part harmonies are gorgeous.  "Trivia Night" is pure fun, a scheming number where winning has nothing to do with the board games played and everything to do with getting the girl.  The Spanish Channel engages in some humorous escapism on "Be A Dog", with Garamella digging into the song in believable fashion.  The band gets cynical and clinical on "Mergers & Acquisitions", trying to console a friend unlucky in love by pointing out that her intended is more like a corporation than a love connection.

Garamella changes speeds with the exquisitely voiced "October Moon", showing off a purse falsetto voice you wouldn't have guessed from the songs that precede it.  It's like a painting in song, full of vibrant images and tones.  "War Of The Worlds" is catchy rock n roll driven by a righteous hook.  What starts out as an open letter to Osama Bin Laden with comic overtones becomes a subtle indictment of both sides in the conflict, pointing out the futility of the fight and all the lost opportunities it has bequeathed us.  The Spanish Channel closes with the edgy rock n roll of "Cold Fusion", which is decent but seems a bit out of place here.

The Spanish Channel continues to come together on Brooklyn, Off Atlantic, showing continuing development of a sound that hasn't quite settled yet.  Jamie Garamella has a talent for writing lyrics that blend personal thoughts, clinical perspectives and humor in sometimes surprising ways, and doesn't waste the ability here.  The pacing of the album is great, but Brooklyn, Off Atlantic lacks that one big melody that really sucks you.  It's a very good album that never quite manages to blow you away.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)

Learn more about The Spanish Channel at or  Brooklyn, Off Atlantic is available as a CD or Download through The Spanish Channel's webstore.  You can also order the CD through, or Downloads via iTunes.

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