Rock trio The Record Company returns with their first full length album since 2018’s acclaimed All Of This Life. Their newest, Play Loud, shares much of their previous LP’s DNA, while slightly pivoting towards a more modern, glossy sound. With one foot in the minimalist blues-revival vein, the other free to kick around various studio techniques, the band melds the two worlds to produce a set of fuzzy, hook-heavy tracks that are accessible for radio play, but also just raw enough to please purists.
The group focuses heavily on the warmth and variety of sounds, and they usually hit the mark. Lead guitarist and singer Chris Vos occupies a lot of the mix, which draws listeners’ attention to the chunky guitar riffs and progressions that he creates. Bassist Alex Stiff and drummer Marc Cazorla turn in unselfishly great performances in supporting Vos, but also provide some great moments and grooves that might not grab listeners until later spins. It’s an album dominated by guitar parts and the songs built around them.
Play Loud opens with “Never Leave You,” a sharp guitar based groove that is one of the set’s best tunes. The rare song where the strength of the chord progressions and clever transitions carry the track, the guitar tone here veers towards raw, as it does on “Out Of My Head.” In between lie “How High” and “Gotta Be Movin’” which serve as examples where Vos’s guitar sounds more affected. Both pairs of songs offer great hooks, sounds, and structures, but the latter tandem marks a definite shift in the band’s sound. “Live As One” dials back the electricity and noise which allows more space for the rhythm to shine through. The track itself pushes a mellow, uplifting message that approximates a Britpop sound reminiscent of mid-90s Oasis. The Record Company follows it up “Today Forever,” another airy anthemic number that feels like it could become a crowd favorite when played live. “Get Up And Dance” also reflects a new sound that comes very close to being great, but the band might need a bit more practice in this direction, even if Cazorla’s percussion excels.
Perhaps the best two songs of the set, “Awake” and “Midnight Moon” harken back to a rawer, more classic rock sound that the band displays mastery of yet again. “Awake” doesn’t work too hard at being gritty or bluesy, even though it is, and that is exactly why it is such a successful example of a great, modern slide guitar grind. “Midnight Moon,” cooly rocks along upon a quick three-chord return and just enough jangly piano to add a bit of color to an otherwise straightforward track. The crescendo that ends the piece serves as one of Play Loud’s high water marks.
The Record Company does a commendable job of moving away from their trademark sound and trying a few different approaches to sounds and songs. Admittedly some of them work better than others, and some of the album’s finest moments occur when the band leans upon their practiced vibe. However, a couple of the attempts at branching out possess qualities that might endear them to a more mainstream audience and more exposure, even if they aren’t the best tracks on this outing. Both fans of the band and newcomers will enjoy Play Loud. Whether or not it ranks with their previous work is a matter of personal taste.
The Review: 8.5/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Never Leave You
– Live As One
– Today Forever
– Midnight Moon
The Big Hit
– Midnight Moon