Written By: Joe Brown
Drawing on influences ranging from the U.S.’s “Golden Oldies Era” Elvis Presley and The Beach Boys to the post-modern neo-psychedelia of Neon Indian and Ariel Pink, Lancaster, PA’s Shane Graybill presents to the world his solo project, Cult Choir. The self-described “50′s and 60′s doo-wop with a modern twist” is a fully rounded and accomplished sound that soothes your soul with its soft harmonies and reverberating vibrations.
“Perfect,” the first song on the 16-track High Spirits EP, encapsulates this soft energy so well as, although the song is relatively quite simple with a mellow progression played over a cross sticking pattern, the beauty of the track comes through the lyrics and melody of the layered vocals, including a falsetto chorus. The harmonies yearn for that “perfect girl” whilst also pining for that gripping sense of nostalgia that is often lost, and all-but-forgotten, through life.
Not always light pop, “Something’s There” is an ominous turn to Cult Choir‘s darker side as a tambourine stalks the crooning lyrics that valiantly vie to continue the narrative, without succumbing to slipping into the the background layers of faint wailing that haunt and linger in the backdrop. Gone is the nostalgic feeling from “Perfect,” and enters the sense of a murky underside to things with its lucid delivery.
About halfway through the album, we are struck with the very real, almost mellow garage-rock power of “Cold October” that bursts through and leaves you in awe. It starts off with a lone voice that paints a hazy, forlorn picture with vocals that waver within the scene, until harmonies and distorted guitars dominate with a grinding growl. The initial picture the sound paints has a fresh coat, yet it appears more intense and grimy with the sudden, cozy wall-of-sound that hits you.
The journey of this LP is ever-changing as it displays a range of textures and sounds from the past which are then cleverly dipped in psychedelia and pop, such as exhibited on this next highlighted track. Shane calls himself a “lo-fi Sinatra” and ”I Want To Know,” about three-quarters of the way through the album, has a slight tinge of The Rat Pack with the melodic point and theme that it sets to lay out. Although the message is an apology to a girl that has been hurt, it is done in the singer’s own time; Cult Choir manages to relay true emotional undertones through this composition which is something that Frank Sinatra was really great at doing.
The mood of the album then changes again, as “Forget It” shuffles through with a clap-along beat that meters the naturally reverberating guitars. This, combined with the now-trademark vocals of Cult Choir, come together to create a scene of going for a drive by the beach on a summer holiday, perhaps while travelling through France.
The album’s final song “New Life” has an ever-present organ that cements everything as the vocals take an easy, soulful stride to bring the grand masterpiece all to a gentle conclusion. High Spirits is the sophomoric album released by Cult Choir via Bandcamp at a rate of “Name Your Price”– ultimately, a 35-minute trip back to the sixties’ Americana which comes across as a fond pastiche of the early psychedelic era, revived in an air of mellowed-out, easy-listening psych.
*If you’re on the east coast this weekend (Sunday 2/24), you can catch Cult Choir live in Philadelphia @ Kung Fu Necktie on the same bill as local space rockers, Time Hitler and the Assholes from Space, and touring psychedelic punk jams from PC Worship (NY) and The Super Vacations (VA)!