Review: Sloss Minor, G Major Neutral Zero (JMB Record$, 2014)

I've been eagerly awaiting the debut album from Birmingham, AL's Sloss Minor for quite some time now; as the band features former Hot Rod Circuit/Death in the Park main man Andy Jackson alongside his wife, Rachael, and ex-members of Northstar and The Escape Frame. If you've followed any of my ramblings in the past, you may well know that I'm of the mind that Andy is a musical genius and one of the greatest songwriters in the history of all living things (Hot Rod Circuit being one of my all-time favorite and most-played bands). His track record is simply impeccable—damn near every song the guy writes is a high-level keeper, and every band he's been in for the last 15 years should have been far, far more successful (that his output has yet to receive more widespread/"mainstream" attention is an incredible injustice and drives me fuckin' crazy).

Sloss Minor grew out of the post-Hot Rod Circuit project Death in the Park, and continues that fine tradition. Not unlike the aforementioned bands, Sloss Minor injects noisy leads and fuzzily overdriven Weezer-isms into a solid foundation of poppy emo/indie rock—perhaps a smidge more lighthearted at times, and with keyboards playing a prominent role. 9/10 times I would be annoyed by keyboards from a band like this; they just don't align with my personal tastes. That being said, such masterfully catchy songwriting makes everything gel perfectly, so—to my surprise—it's a total non-issue here.

Another plus are the near-constant vocal harmonies between Andy and Rachael, which also add a slightly different edge to this material. I'm always a sucker for vocal harmonies, and dealing with songs this hooky they're all the better. The tracks the band has posted online (the bouncy "Duffle Bag" coupled with a no-one-saw-it-coming Human Centipede-themed love song) just barely scratch the surface. My immediate favorite, "Never Know," offers a straightforward surge of power chords, completely devoid of filler with yet another should-be million-dollar chorus. And the slightly slower, more somber turn of "The Race" helps accentuate the range of the band's palette.

The disc is housed in a three-panel digipack—sans lyrics, for one reason or another—so you'll essentially get a few photos and credits. Speaking of which, the entire affair was recorded, mixed, and produced by Andy at his own The Jackalope Studio. It starts out a little bit on the thin side, so you've gotta crank it to hear the clarity. Of course, my ears are a little beaten up, so—as usual—the deeper I get into the album, the thicker and more fleshed out it seems. Slick pulses of bass always hold the core together, and the percussion sounds amazingly warm and natural. There's a lot of layering and cool panning across the board, striking a pretty complex balance between all of the vocal harmonies and the interplay between guitars and keyboards.

In the end you'll get a compact 12 songs in 35 minutes, and there's not a bad track in the bunch—just songs that are perhaps "less awesome." I know this is a band and not The Andy Jackson Show, and I don't want to sound like a broken record, but, hey... what can I say? I'm a gushing fanboy, and I can't speak highly enough of his discography. The dude could record himself throwing baloney slices at the wall and probably figure out a way to make you sing-along to it (and I'm only half-kidding). So, G Major Neutral Zero is most definitely recommended, especially if you listen to anything even remotely comparable to this niche. This will undoubtedly be among the best albums of the year in my book.

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