The Red West

The Red West

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While he was never very interested in accessibility during his short, bittersweet career, Jeff Buckley's acolytes usually try to shoehorn his majesty, soul, and meandering sound into a more cohesive frame. On their eponymous Atlantic debut, Cali's the Red West accomplish this with more success than most, if only because Jayson Belt's expressive vocal sway can appropriate some of the feeling in Buckley's elegiac voice. The album moves easily between the harder and softer sides of adult alternative, with "Don't Fall In," "The Balance," and "Crazy Cold" embodying the former, more Buckley-ish side of things, while the light, shuffling acoustics of "Twenty-One" or the singalong "Days Die" are closer to California beachfront campfire rock. It's an ambitious mixture. Although The Red West is filled with hooks, the quartet takes its time getting to them, and takes some routes that might be unfamiliar to the casual listener. The aforementioned "Days Die" drifts into a crackling fiddle and muted trumpet interlude, while "Disappear" rolls along on a surging piano and horn melody. Sometimes, this ambitiousness can be revealed as pretentiousness. Belt sometimes gets carried away with the sound of his own voice, and an untitled set break track that seems to ruminate on the relationship between the crowd and the band is aimless and, yes, pretentious. This is accessible pop music, after all, and shouldn't be caught up in too much conceptual drama. Luckily, the Red West put most of their ideas into melody and interesting songcraft. The adult alternative fan who found Buckley's Grace to be beautiful, yet too opaque, should be right at home with the Red West's more obvious version of that searching modern rock sound.

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