From the driving bass drum on the first track, I knew this was going to be a killer album. The combination of a solid lead vocal and an upbeat overall flavor, I was hooked to the alt rock sounds of Ringer T. The group bio on their bandcamp page explains that they make music “simply for the love of it.” I think that ethos comes through in an awesome album. Honestly, this is on the short list for album of the year for its accessibility and charm. I like this album frankly because it’s… likeable.
Driving bass drum lines, happy harmonies, and sultry organ lines… these guys got every detail right. In the interest of full disclosure it was Kiersten Holine’s facebook post that keyed me into this album, but I’m sure glad I heard it. There’s something incredibly “put together” about the approach of the band Ringer T. Even their name is cool. I don’t have any idea what it means, but it’s unique and it pops. Good work guys.
Okay so now onto the album. The first track “The Way It Shakes” starts as an impressive southern rock style ballad. Almost immediately the combination of songwriting and appropriate harmonies key listeners into this being a band of the 21st century. What I mean by that is that these guys fancy themselves “vintage” in some of their sounds, but frankly they’re better than the bands they are emulating. Listeners might pick up on a variety of southern rock stylings, including 38 Special and Lynrd Skynrd, but in point of fact Ringer T have forged their own far-poppier sound than their predecessors.
What I like about Ringer T… well okay, a lot. But initially what I like about them is the infusion of horns into the pop rock sound overall. They just seem to have fabricated a seemingly unheard sound. Just reading this (without actually listening), one might think they have an Edward Sharpe sound, but they don’t. They are more… rock, less hippie. But that’s not a knock on either band. They’re just different.
The album seemlessly transitions to “Blind Eyes,” a poppy rock track that really keeps listeners bobbing their heads throughout. It’s a great song harder than the Partridge Family, but softer than most “rock” music most listeners associate with the genre. It’s a surprisingly existential tune, contemplating our (your?) place in the world. It’s about pondering place in a variety of contexts. “Let me out to clear my name… it’s coming I feel it” smacks of a larger story of personal retribution, but in point of fact it has a hard driving blues bridge that makes any complexity of lyrics go down smooth for the listener.
“Out of My Hands” is a coming of age tale about working hard and trying to find success. What I love about the track overall is its inspiring elements. It’s not just a power ballad. Rather, it develops over a variety of sonic constructs and eventually builds to the kind of anthemic… well, “coming of age” kind of track you might expect. It’s a combination “Cruisin’ down the highway” track with an introspective mid-70s rock ballad (think Fleetwood Mac). All in all, it’s a delightful track that will make fans of a lot of people simply because it’s infinitely relatable for “regular” people. Life, so often, feels out of our hands.
“Join Together” is a feel good tune that points to the need for cooperation. It’s an anthem addressing larger societal problems and the failure of people to work together. It could find a place on a number of secular humanistic collection. “Come together… bring us higher.” It’s a nice piece that connects people, or at least explains that people should be connected. Sonically it’s not the best track on the album because it seems to get away from the pop vocals that make the other tracks really pop, but I applaud them for their attempt at variety. I definitely still has a place on the album, even if it’s not my personal favorite.
Again making a nice hat tip toward the 70s, “Good Timing” sounds like a track that is equal parts Motown and James Taylor. It’s got a nice 70s AM Gold flavor to it. Even the vocal harmonies transport listeners back to a “better” time. In a lot of ways, it might be the best song on the album because of its remarkable ability to connect pop vocals with a bygone era. I can almost see CHIPs rolling across my TV while I relax in my deluxe easy chair.
“What Lies Ahead” begins with some good wholesome folk finger picking and “la las” that put smiles on the faces of… well… everyone. Then, despite a relatively simple song overall, there’s a very deep philosophical tenet evidenced in the lyrics of this one. “Whisper of the past… louder than what lies ahead.” And with that, friends, we have one of the most profound philosophical treatises encapsulated in a song that I’ve ever written about. Think about it. Which matters more? The past or the future? That’s what this song is positing and answer to. Not only that. It is using the lens of a relationship as a way to settle the very intricate discussion of past or future. What an incredible work. This, friends, is what art is all about.
Then, following deep philosophical reflection, “Into Your Own” punches listeners in the mouth with a hard driving rock jam. Nevertheless still utilizing existential lyrics, the song has a much more “driven” flavor to it. Similarly, “Nothing But Time” has a nice driving rock beat to it. What strikes me about this album is that these guys would be great to hear live. They have a nice balance between ballads that we can sing along to, and cheesy 70s dance rhythms. It’s a nice mix that seems like it would translate really well to a live show. The “la las” and “ba bas” on some of the tracks would be really great for the half inebriated crowds, too.
“Let Me Be Your Man” is the first track Ringer T wants their listeners to hear when first visiting bandcamp. Justifiably so. This is a driving rock ballad that really proves to define the band. It’s hard to say there’s a “best” track on the album, but maybe in one sense this is the most “complete.” The other songs on the album that are really good, but there’s something about this one that strikes me as having everything a hit song should have. From the balance between the guitars and vocals, to the overtly romantic lyrics, it just seems like a song that could fly up the Billboard charts far more than some others on the album.
The concluding “On My Way” has its own kind of sophistication to it. Complete with strings and minor chord turns throughout, it’s the kind of song that doesn’t just happen by accident. Oh and it’s so romantic, too. “Any time you need me through thick or thin it doesn’t matter…” you know… “cuz I got time to be the one you wanted to be.” It’s just a good bring-the-lights-down end-of-70s night-at-the-bar fare. That’s a lot of hyphens, but you get the point. It’s a hug your friends, hope they can drive home kind of song.
All told Ringer T have put together more than a “bar special” album. There are some phenomenal harmonies on this album, some dance jams, and an overall enjoyable album. They’ll be on my short list for consideration for album of the year. What I like most about the album, as I usually say for my album of the year candidates, is that there are no “skip” tracks. I skipped a few short ones for my review, but in reality this is an “enjoy the whole way through” album. Check it out and enjoy it that. Throw these fellas 10 bucks and get the album. Why not? It’s good. Fans of pop rock music will most likely love every track on this album.