By Alessandro Improta
Between starting and running a recording studio, self producing their new album, and gigging hard, the guys in Cinders are definitely keeping their hands full. They released their first EP, I Could Do Better, in 2015. Just a year later, they’ve already cranked out an LP. The quality of their work is equally as impressive as the sheer volume. This self titled full length is definitely worth a listen.
If you’re a fan of Jack Johnson, you’re definitely going to love these guys. They aren’t as acoustic or mellow as Johnson, and they have different instrumentation – including horns. However, they definitely have the happy, bouncy, major key thing down. “Locked Up” is probably the track that has the most Jack Johnson feel. The chorus especially. It has a melody that seems heavily influenced by him, as does the second guitar part. It sounds like something you’d hear on From Here to Now To You. It’s breezy, it’s upbeat, it’s rhythmic (there’s some shaker panned to the right that adds some nice flavor), and it’s catchy. The lyrics are memorably sentimental, and the instrumental breaks are very well orchestrated. It’s got all the bells and whistles. No, seriously. It has bells. And it has whistles.
“Last Year’s Winter” is such feel-good, nostalgic song. I will be honest. This song means a lot to me personally. This track was on Cinders’ first EP, and there were about two weeks last September where that EP was playing in my car pretty much non-stop. I clearly remember this song playing while driving down the canyon late at night with someone I really cared about. Every time I hear this song it takes me back to that exact moment. The repeated line at the end (“On the road there are some things that make it all worthwhile”) fit the situation so perfectly and immediately cemented itself as part of the soundtrack of my life. Yes, the situation had a big part in creating this effect, but if this weren’t an emotional song already, it would have never happened. This is one of those songs that makes you nostalgic for something even if you don’t know exactly what it makes you nostalgic for. Maybe my view of it is skewed now because of my own personal experience with it, but I think that the fact that I have a personal experience attached to it speaks volumes about the track itself. Listen to this song. Make a memory.
Maybe the most quintessential Cinders song off this album is its lead single, “Hope You Do.” I think that this track best captures what a Cinders show feels like: groovy, happy, and tasteful. The number one thing you’ll notice in this song, especially when they do it live, is the melodica. Such a simple instrument, but it fits so perfectly here. Between the interesting use of wind instruments, happy acoustic guitar, Sugar Ray like electric guitar licks, and anthemic group vocals, this song is about as classically Cinders as is possible. This is a fantastic single.
I also appreciate the song “Found.” It probably differs the most from the typical Cinders sound. The tom work, the moody builds, the reverby guitar – it shows that Cinders isn’t just a fun, quirky little jam band. They have depth. They can explore a wide range of emotions. While they don’t explore a ton of them on this record, this little taste makes me excited for what they’ll do next.
It should also be noted that the band tracked and mixed everything on this album. Apart from the mastering, this is as indie as indie gets, and they’ve done a fantastic job making it sound high quality and professional. Cinders is the complete package. Songwriters, performers, producers. It’s truly impressive. Mastering was handled by Alan Douches of West West Side Studios NY. He’s mastered albums for artists like Brand New, Sufjan Stephens, Fleetwood Mac, The Misfits, Kiss, and many more. Everything is at a modern, consistent, commercial volume. That extra little bit of attention makes this a very polished, legitimate release.
This album is great. Cinders isn’t exactly reinventing music here, and they aren’t pushing any boundaries. Instead, they have found what they do well, and they have done it really well. This album is full of well written songs that are easy to listen to and have happy, hopeful melodies. Cinders was wise to release this at the beginning of Summer. It couldn’t have been released at a better time. I’m looking forward to playing this loudly in my car – windows down – with the warm summer wind blowing in my face.