EP Review: Action Figures – City And The Sea

Guilty confession:  I’ve been too busy enjoying the music of late to review it.

This is the never-ending struggle as a music writer:  how do I balance the fan in me with the writer in me?  How do I force myself to bunker down and churn out reviews when the rapid-fire demand for reviews is hardly conducive to the slow growth of appreciation many albums demand?  My answer of late:  I refuse to write without giving an album its due.

It’s how we’ve come to this moment, where I finally gather your virtual ears around to chat about Hamilton rockers City And The Sea and their latest EP, Action Figures.  OTM’s past coverage of lead single “Strange Feeling” and our pre-CMW interview with the guys may have already clued you in, but just in case, allow me to expound on why we’ve earmarked the band as one that’s a must-spin.

City and the Sea

The EP kicks off with “Strange Feeling”, a track which epitomizes the band’s sound and personality in a single package.  The influence of alt-grunge rockers like Foo Fighters is readily apparent from the driving guitar and heavy-without-being-heavy drums lending support to Nick Cino’s vocals as they drift from a softer blues to outright belting. The slightly off-kilter lyrics will remind old school I Mother Earth fans of “Another Sunday”.  Call it blasphemy, but I like this track better.

Those bluesy touches add a classic feeling to their compositions throughout, a gritty edge sorely lacking from much of what the mainstream purports as the inheritors of the crown once held by the likes of Alice In Chains and Mellon Collie-era Smashing Pumpkins.  It evokes acts like The Black Crowes, bands whose sound endure beyond the fashionable fads with more universal appeal.  “Railroad (On My Mind)” almost feels like a lost Steve Earle track circa Copperhead Road with its elegantly simple alt-country structure and message of freedom on the open road — er, track.

While current single “Living It Up” veers into the more commercial territory with a more pop-rock feel both lyrically and sonically, it’s a quality single that doesn’t stray far from the band’s core flavour.  Personally, I’m more enamoured with the brooding feel of “Footprints”, with its ominous musings on failure and destruction that burst like the flood Cino declares is wreaking havoc come the bridge.  This more experimental terrain is a landscape I would love for the band to spend more time on; I have a feeling great things could come of it.

Action Figures is a revealing snapshot of a band hitting its stride, toying with the next fork in the road to venture down.  Worthy of blasting while cruising the roads of summer, it’s a solid set of rock tracks cut from timeless cloth.

Highlights:  “Strange Feeling”; “Footprints”; “Railroad (On My Mind)”

Final Grade:  A-

Learn more about City and the Sea at their official site.

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