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ALBUM OF THE MONTH
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"The Hollow Moon"
by Galactic Gulag
Instrumental stoner rock
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Side Saddle
(Stunner)
2016
Staff Rating: Crank this to 8.8 of 11
Genre:
Alternative rock
Sounds Like:
Band of Horses, The Shins
Haling from Queens, NY we welcome Side Saddle and their second full-length entitled Stunner. Having previewed their earlier releases, the full-length entitled The Astorian and their two EPs The Postcard and Young Professional, the band is certainly looking to find their comfort zone. The group has expanded from Ian McGuinness’ solo project and vision to their latest album that features some darker elements along with a more plugged in sound. The now six members display an important chemistry as Side Saddle continues with their very poignant and inspirational ways. Ian’s charismatic and calming vocals remind us very much of what Ben Bridwell delivers within Band of Horses. Ian creates his own atmosphere with less enhanced vocal echo effect, but yet achieves a similar euphoria. Stunner is an album filled with somber overtones and exceptional heartfelt lyrics.

Track Listing:
1. Heartbeat (4:11)
2. Still (3:22)
3. Right Frame of Mind (3:04)
4. Go Home (3:14)
5. The One I Run To (4:56)
6. Connected (4:55)
7. Curious (3:46)
8. I Want to Know (4:29)

What two tracks stand out the most on Stunner?
"The One I Run To" has tremendous power in its simplicity. Tait’s subtle intro warms us up for what is perhaps the most poignant track on the album. Terrific storytelling of relationship with the passage of time... ”somehow now they don’t align." The track features some of the most dramatic contrasts building off the soft keyboard and acoustics ending with some intense fretwork. The closer "I Want to Know" is another gem that shines lyrically. A psychological endeavor into another’s thoughts. We can’t help but bring up the Band of Horses’ influence on this track. This track could easily slide ride into the amazing album Cease To Begin. Balanced acoustics, keyboards and that swaying somber angelic vocal vibe that makes Side Saddle impressive.

Are there any negative moments on the album?
We have to say the album starts out a little slow with the opener "Heartbeat". We can’t quite put our finger on it, but the heartbeat-like rhythms turned us off at first. Thankfully we stuck with it and at about the 2:30 mark, Ian’s vocals moved away from the Jackson Browne feel morphing back into his own with some very cool vocal effects. The track ends very strong and sails from there on out.

What adult beverage do you recommend accompany Stunner?
The relaxing tones within Midnight Sun. Brewed by Ithaca Brewing Co., Ithaca, NY.  This 5.8% ABV well balanced “Schwarzbier,” or black lager balances dark malts with peppery German hops. Smooth and airy despite its midnight color.

Band Members:
Ian McGuinness - Lead vocals
TJ Dumser - Guitar
Ryan Sniffen - Guitar
Eric Tait Jr. - Keys & trumpet
Brendan Coughlan - Bass
Rich Bozek - Drummer

Record Label: Cedar Lodge Records

What are our final thoughts for Stunner?
Ian McGuinness has that voice that almost sounds like it has built in harmonies. A two for one perhaps. While his vocals are clearly the backbone of this project, the five other members do an excellent job supporting the endeavor. Stunner is an album that will hit home with you after several listens. An album that will help you form your own memories in whatever light you listen to it. It is heartfelt and contains some very well-balanced intertwined tracks. We will leave you with one of our favorite and most simplistic lines on the album..."I got the windows down and turn the radio on”. Give this one a gander and keep it in your heavy rotation. - 12/26/2016

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