I was talking with my brother about the band Easterly and about its brainchild, lead guitarist and vocalist, Noah Hall. I described their music, a definite late eighties / early nineties singer /songwriter feel, a little Britpop, and a lot of talent. A photographer who happened to be taking pictures of my brother’s band asked, “Do they sound like Kiss?” I was befuddled. Huh? Where did that come from? I asked him to explain. “Well, because of the name of the band,” he replied. “Easterly?” I queried. “Oh,” he said, “I thought you said Ace Frehley!” We all had a good laugh which led me to tell them Noah’s first choice for the band’s name, Noah Hall & Oates.
All of this has little to do with Easterly’s self-titled debut album, other than my own original description. It’s just kind of a funny story, but relevant in the sense that Hall’s lyrics are clever and witty, much like the `accidental’ mishearing of the band’s name. Rather than funny, however, Easterly’s songs are, like so many other good songs, drenched in reality and sadness. Almost every song is about a broken heart, a lost love, or the foreshadowing of such things to come. What makes this album successful, as it does for other artists of this ilk, is Hall’s earnestness.
Hall’s voice is falsetto sweetness which belies the tragedy in each song. One is lulled into a sense of calm and tranquility by the gentle pop harmonies, not knowing until dissecting the lyrics, that each lyric reveals pain. If you combine the vocal style of the Pernice Brothers, the poppy catches of Fountains of Wayne, and the tenderness of Matthew Sweet, you’ll come pretty close to describing Easterly. Luckily for me, I was given a copy of the newly pressed Japanese version of the CD, complete with four bonus songs. I have also heard some compositions in the rough that could either become part of the sophomore Easterly effort, or a possible solo project for Hall. Easterly is a band on the rise and should get the attention it truly deserves. Fans of Rogue Wave, Elliott Smith, and some of the more songwriter based eighties music should take note.
One of the standout tracks for me was “One of These Days”. Although it’s the shortest song on the album, Hall is at his darkest and most emotional with this song, and utters lines like, “One of these days I want to break a heart, and I hope it’s you.” As he sing / shouts the second half of the refrain, you feel the anger and resentment along with Hall and start to recall your own past hurtful relationships. Part of Hall’s gift is bringing the listener along with him for the emotional journey of life, love and heartache. On the next track, “Happiness”, you get another memorable turn of phrases, “Contentment can’t fill me, desire won’t thrill me, the spirit isn’t stilling me, and happiness is killing me.”
As I have the Japanese copy, I had access to one of those fold-over CD caps that comes wrapped in the package, you know, the ones that Ryko used to put on their CD’s? Well, this one has a heck of a lot of Japanese characters interrupted by only a few English words, Easterly, Velvet Crush, Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub, Fountains of Wayne, Pernice Brothers, Zombies, and Beatles. Those are some pretty heavy bands to compare Easterly with, and they deserve every one of them.
The La’s- The La’s
Fountains of Wayne- Utopia Parkway
Teenage Fanclub- Bandwagonesque