Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The River City Extension Isn't Here

The origin of River City Extension is kind of like a true to life tale of growth and expansion. This NJ band came into being after founder Joe Michelini went from playing coffee houses to coming up with the idea of adding different elements to his music. Having the intention to write orchestral indie rock, Michelini knew he would had to expand and err...extend his band from consisting of one member to many. The band found itself expanding from one to a three piece acoustic outfit and then rapidly to a full eight piece band that lives up to Michelini's goal of orchestral indie rock. Perfecting their sound and stagecraft, River City Extension were hard at work until they self-released their debut in 2008. With the extension complete, in 2009 ,the band headed back to the studio after rigorous amounts of touring and recorded their debut album, The Unmistakable Man and waited. In early 2010 the band signed with XOXO Records and re-released the album.

Sounding like the exact opposite of everything you would expect a band from New Jersey to sound like, River City Extension have more in common with someone like Arcade Fire than the Boss. Arty, pastoral, and rustic this group of eight musicians seriously sound as though they belong in the field on the cover or in a real Garden State. It's Americana but with a flare for the dramatic and orchestral. That's a good thing because if they didn't apply themselves in such a way to make such excitingly large sounding tunes, much of The Unmistakable Man would be so staggeringly dull I'd pass out from boredom. As it stands though, this is the sound of a group of cheeky urbanites who clearly want to get lost in the country.

The Unmistakable Man is a fun album that throws your bog standard Americana underneath a bus and then redefines the whole genre by mixing in sea shanty's, rockabilly, country, Vaudeville, and the Dust Bowl to their sound. In addition. River City Extension's orchestral-like arrangements turn up the theatrical aspect of the band which further enhances their non-Jersey credibility and give the album a sense of motion and action that's nearly effortless. While there are several quiet moments on The Unmistakable Man, the record is really driven by the jumpy pastoral pop that the band writes in abundance. This is the sort of record that only a band from New Jersey could ever hope to put together because it's like Americana if it were stranded in Trenton for a month and desperate to get out.

The Unmistakable Man is a rough and ramshackle record that proves that artful tunes can come from the strangest places. Beautiful and austere, River City Extension are a fantastic band that bring a feeling of the simple life to an urban landscape.

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