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CD REVIEW: The Barrens - The Barrens

By: Cyrus Rhodes




Album: The Barrens

Label: Independent Music Promotions
Website: http://thebarrens.bandcamp.com/

Genre: Alternative Rock, Psychedelic Rock     

Sounds Like: Cocteau Twins, Soundgarden, Radiohead

Technical Grade: 5/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 7/10
Commercial Value: 7/10
Overall Talent Level: 10/10
Songwriting Skills: 10/10
Performance Skill: 10/10
Best Song: Felt, Bottom of the Well, Never Knew

Weakness:  Engineering Aspects (Recording, Mixing, Mastering), Genera Identity Crisis, Winded Songs




New York 5 piece Alternative Rock band “The Barrens” release their first full length CD entitled The Barrens in 2012. Band members include: Colin Fitzgerald (Vocals, Guitar, Bass), Debbie Chou (Vocals, Keyboard), Mike Koene (Guitar, Vocals) and Chris Gersbeck (Drums, Vocals. Jay Sharp (Bass).


The CD methodically kicks things off with “Claw Remains” a psychedelic prologue that serves up infectious melody, hypnotic musical flow meshed against mesmerizing vocal delivery that flows and ebbs its way though to emotional fruition. Just when you think you have this band figured out track 2 “Felt” radically shifts gears with it's driving rock rhythm, blistering guitar attack and heartfelt vocals from Fitzgerald. This coupled with thought provoking lyrical content makes for a powerful follow-up statement. Track 3 “Bottom of a Well‘ serves up well placed vocal harmonies against melodic musical flow against a grand slam chorus. As the CD unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of classic Cocteau Twins, Soundgarden, Soundgarden and even Radiohead. I will add The Barrens music is extremely hard to pigeonhole but has elements of Alternative Rock, Psychedelic Rock and even Hard Rock. Right from the amazing songwriting virtuoso from Iris never comes into question. This sis one band that feels quite comfortable just letting it all hang out musically, not holding anything back. You will hear impressive soundscapes, a few sizzling solos, well placed percussive accents, and lush harmonies layered along the way. The overall musical vibe has a sound that is very melodic and highly original. Beware you never know what’s waiting for you around the next corner. Fitzgerald and Chou delivers rock solid vocal timber and much in the way of passion, emotion and recklessness abandon. The musicianship from everyone involved has everything you would expect from a standard 5 piece Alternative Rock band. As for the songs themselves - all are consistent musical experiences, each one possessing unique personality, flair and signature groove. From passionate “In and of Ice” to hooky “Leave of Absence” to psychedelic “Out of the Rain” to striking “Never Knew” to rocking "Yellow Cigarette” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 11 "Face the Eighth” the perfect finale statement for an CD of this caliber.


It’s fair to say this is not the best mix I’ve ever heard. At the end of the day it sounds a bit muddy and lacks serious low end frequency and crystal clear high end clarity. It simply doesn’t stack-up to other Gold Standard CD’s within the genera when it comes to some of the finite engineering aspects (Recording, Mixing, Mastering). CD also suffers from a mild case of Genera Identity Crisis as well. From Soundgarden to Cocteau Twins this CD spreads itself way to thin across to many genera’s. It doesn’t even sound like the same band songs for song. All songs over 3.5 minutes in length tend to drag you to the finish line.


In close The Barrens is a fascinating snapshot of music from this 5 piece Alternative Rock band from New York. As time goes by they will no doubt refine and improve their overall production value. This is however a good start for them and and I will go on record and say The Barrens have an incredible amount of potential. All songs from this latest release are extremely melodic, passionate and highly original. The Barrens have a unique signature sound that will no doubt appeal to a strong cult fanbase within this region. Couple this with a slam dunk live presentation and you have yourself deadly combination.

Cyrus Rhodes