Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Haunted Continents - The Loudest Year Ever

After a long and arduous journey I parked our van in front of the address the group had provided.   I’ll admit that the location was a little spooky, even in broad daylight.  We were a couple of miles outside of New York City proper, and there were only a few mid-size industrial buildings around to break up the landscape.  Additionally, the squat one story building my camera crew and I were parked in front of appeared to be the only one currently inhabited.  I honked the van’s horn to formally announce our presence.

Sure enough a door opened and two normal looking young men walked out to greet us.  Handshakes and introductions followed.  James A.M. Downes was the singer/guitar player, and Matt Cascella was the drummer.  Together they made up The Haunted Continents.  Perhaps sensing my unease, Mr. Downes clapped me on the shoulder and reassured me that no one present was in any physical danger whatsoever.  Unfortunately his statement did not truly lessen my concern, and I asked for clarification on what exactly was going to happen inside this building of theirs today.  He laughed, put a big smile on his face, and explained that my crew and I were here to document the latest of their ongoing séances.  With any luck he continued, we would also be able to record video of new music being written and performed.  That seemed pretty straightforward to me, so my crew and I followed the two young men into the building with cameras at the ready.

Leaving the bright afternoon sunshine behind, I found the dark interior of the building quite disorienting.  Once my eyes adjusted to the low light levels, I observed that the interior space had been fully transformed into one large practice/recording space, with vintage concert posters decorating the walls.  The musicians took their respective places, strapping on a guitar and sitting behind the drum kit, and signaled us to begin recording video.  Incense was lit and a few choice words were chanted in unison.  At this point Mr. Downes closed his eyes and appeared to go into a deep trance while Mr. Cascella continued calling on otherworldly entities.  No more than one minute later, Mr. Downes visibly shook, opened his eyes and looked around the room as if he was unsure where he was.  He looked down at the guitar, smiled, and lifted his gaze onto Mr. Cascella.

“Hey Matt!  How are you?”
“I’m fine Buddy.  How are you?”
“Well it’s good to be back here I can tell you.”  He looked to his right and saw me and my crew.  “Who’s this?”
“Buddy this is…”
“Hi.  My name is Penfold, and you are?”
“Buddy.  Buddy Holly.  Pleased to meet you.  Are you here to listen to me and Matt play some music?”
“Great!  Hey Matt, I’ve been listening to those Weezer albums you showed me.  Man they’re great!”
“Yeah Buddy, I think so too.  I’m glad you like them so much.”
“You bet I do.  They’ve given me tons of song ideas!  Do you want to just play along with me as I run through some of them?”
“Sure.  That sounds good to me.”
“Great!  Here we go.”

Waveriders, waveriders, waveriders.  Boy oh boy do I have some music to tell you about today!  The Haunted Continents is the name of the band and their fantastic debut album, The Loudest Year Ever, is about to serenade your eardrums into a state of pure ecstasy.  As you might have guessed after reading the story above, The Haunted Continents is made up of the dynamic duo of guitarist/keyboard operator/vocalist James A.M. Downes and drummer Matt Cascella.  Originally from Old Saybrook, CT these two men can currently be found conquering New York City with their wickedly memorable tunes.  But why am I so excited about this band?  What do they sound like?  I’m glad you asked.

To borrow the groups own words, The Haunted Continents ‘mix 50s bop and soul with 90s alternative’.  They list Buddy Holly and Otis Redding as their two main influences besides Weezer.  Now I know what you’re telling yourselves waveriders.  You’re telling yourselves that you’ve heard plenty of modern rock acts that incorporate 50’s rock influences into their sound.  That is certainly true and I won’t bother arguing that point.  So what makes this group different?  I’ll tell you.  The Haunted Continents flip the script and compose songs like a 50’s era group who has been given the gifts of distortion and modern production.  It’s breathtaking!

The Loudest Year Ever is made up of ten songs.  Ten superb anthems dedicated to the fine art of the break-up.  There are ultra groovy heavy hitters.  There are mid-tempo wonders.  There are delicate ballads.  Anything you wish to discover can be found within this album.  Well, I take that last statement back.  If you were looking for some throw away songs or other musical filler, you’ve come to the wrong place.  This album is a lean, mean, bop and soul machine!  While all ten songs are great, there are a few that really jump out at me.  Opener “2nd Avenue Blues” really establishes that the listener is in for something different and wonderful.  “Cure For The Blues” lays some driving guitar strumming over top of another distorted guitar line and hand clap accompaniment.  This song makes me happy…end of story.  “She’s My Only One” sounds so wholesome throughout that I simply can’t resist its charms.  I dare you to try waveriders.  No, scratch that.  I double dare you!

Time to put a bow on this methinks.  Here is the bottom line waveriders.  I love The Haunted Continents album The Loudest Year Ever more and more every time I listen to it.  If you grew up listening to nothing but 1950s rock n’ roll thanks to your parents musical preferences, or if you simply value the sonic blueprint established by those early rock acts and wonder what a 90’s alternative take on their sound would be like you absolutely must hear this album!  The rewards are bountiful!


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