Category: editorial

It’s Not Us Review

It’s Not Us, the most recent release from Umphrey’s McGee, is an extremely diverse and well crafted disc, showcasing some of Umphrey’s best studio work in quite some time. While the band is unquestionably at their best in a live environment, they have occasionally produced groundbreaking studio work, and while it’s unlikely It’s Not Us will be nominated for an Album of the Year at the Grammys, it will more than meet the expectations of thousands Umphreaks nationwide. The recording feigns hints of a more cohesive work, but overall lacks a motif or story to bind it track by track. Instead, this is an album about juxtaposition where contrast is a constant from song to song or even verse to verse, lyrically and musically. There is a lot to discover buried in each layer and fans will find themselves falling further in love on each relisten. The album succeeds to entertain, enlighten and inspire on many levels, forming what is easily Umphrey’s strongest release since Mantis.

The album is energetic from its outset. Leadoff track The Silent Type has morphed considerably from the fan favorite lyrical Jimmy Stewarts formerly known as “Cigarette Cables”. The fuzz distortion has a Miami Virtue theme semi-grubby sound that feels like driving down the Florida shoreline. The distortion on the vocals here is appropriate and works well with Brendan’s voice. The layered guitars add considerable depth to the new arrangement, helping the track escape beyond it’s poppy shell.

As with many tracks on It’s Not Us, Looks sounds best through headphones where all the nuances can be distinctly heard. A lumbering 80s goth industrial sound is alive and well within this song. The rhythm formed by bassist Ryan Stasik’s prominent plucking offers a funk verse vibe that contrasts heavily with the open, airy chorus. The centerpiece of the track is an out of tune King Crimsonesque solo that adds appropriate spice to a cumbersome number.

Whistle Kids sheds off the grimy glam for a laid back rock vibe and some blues licks. The song, written about recovering from a hangover while dealing with children, is wittily composed and the vocals are well harmonized. The simple, stripped down track stands out nicely in comparison to all the layered and heavy on this disc.

Half Delayed bears reflections of The Smashing Pumpkins Drown. Built of shoegazey verses eventually bear way to a distorted crescendo where dual guitars drive and ascend in an energetic fuzz flight that promises to be a improvisation launchpad in the future.

Maybe Someday is the most instrumentally complex song on the album. A frankenstein of many hodgepodge segments glued together, the band pans genres from rock to jazz in this opus. The transitions between sections are fairly smooth and each portion of the song is unique and captivating in its own way. The stratum of sound from percussionist Andy Farag up through Brendan’s vocals is deep and fascinating. Make sure to listen to this track through headphones.

Remaining fairly true to it’s live incarnations, Remind Me embodies the rest of the album as a track perfectly divided between smooth and heavy. The shoulder shuffling, slinky guitar of the first segment accompanies well formed verses. The heavy section is formed by Joel’s haunting mellotron keys, insane finger flicking guitar solos and double bass drum kick pedal mania.

You and You Alone is simply gorgeous. The strongest track on the album lyrically, Brendan recites pure poetry in a love ballad that reflects on marriage and parenthood at once. Soft key chords mix seamlessly with quiet guitar licks, swelling sentiment until listeners are overcome. While there are many songs of sorrow among the Umphrey’s catalog, this dabble into lovesongs is exemplary and will make even the most stoic face shed a tear.

We have heard Forks a couple times live before. The album incarnation is very similar but heavily plays up the 80s elements in the best way. The track is peppered with symphonic sparkles and moves at a brisk, uplifting pace. A sense of exuberance runs throughout some of Brendan’s most cryptic lyrics on the album, music one could run marathons listening to.

Speak Up debuted live in 2015 but didn’t start to become interesting until the band opened it for expansive improvisation.  The studio rendition is playful and sprightly, relying heavily on keyboardist Joel Cummin’s fat organ notes, escorted by special guest saxophonist Joshua Redman.

The album’s low point is near the end. Piranhas has failed to develop into an interesting tune since its debut in 2014. A fairly straightforward cut from live to studio, the song’s linear layout and lack of variance cannot hold a candle to the surrounding tracks. The pop flavor and conventional structure creates a standard song. Previous efforts with a similar sequential build, like The Linear or Conduit, have been far more successful songs of a similar vein.

Listen to Dark Brush three times before you come to a conclusion about it. A driving distorted riff and breathy, haunting vocals make this tour de force heavy enough to be the new Wizards Burial Ground, and that will cause a decisive rift among listeners. Nothing this bold within the “jamband” community should be without debate. Dark Brush successfully takes the best elements of predecessors like Hindsight and Little Gift from 2014’s Similar Skin, and combines them with enough adventure and terror to generate nightmare specter scenery for any listener. Muffled, distorted banter and the overwhelming howl of the chorus will have this seance somehow stuck in your head.

On It’s Not Us, the band does an excellent job taking calculated risks while continuously evoking classic Umphrey’s sounds and techniques. Rhythmically the band takes lots of chances with lyrical pacing and more often than not it pays off. The boys have shown a preference to turn towards the heavy on studio albums and, in this scenario, it is a resonating audioscape nicely sprinkled with subtle sonic shimmers. The infrequent stumbles in songs do not detract from the overall audio experience whatsoever. This is not an Umphrey’s Dance Party record, though one can hear obvious on-ramps into future rhythmic Jimmy Stewarts, especially in the segues between diametrically opposed sections. There is lots to uncover here and while not every track will make it into heavy rotation, the majority should become mainstays. Embracing divergence and contrast, It’s Not Us confirms that Umphrey’s occasionally is able to surprise in studio like they often do on stage.

Top Tracks:
Whistle Kids
Maybe Someday
Remind Me
You & You Alone
Dark Brush

Umphreak’s Anonymous has Kangfirmed UMLive Android drops tomorrow! – Umphreak’s Editorial: Bring UMLive to Android!


9:31pm Umphreak’s Anonymous has Kangfirmed UMLive Android drops tomorrow!

Original Article

By Joshua Colky In September of 2013, Umphrey’s McGee unleashed unto the world the UMLive Streaming Service and it was glorious to all who could behold it…those who were iPhone users. Truly, our initial review of the desktop service showed that it had its fair share of bugs and problems: the interface was clunky, the Queue feature did not work properly and was not intuitive, the social function did not work correctly.  A year and a half later, some of that has been improved on while other pieces remain exactly the same – you can now “Click the Rhino” to get back to the UMLive homepage, but the Social features and Queue have not been altered whatsoever since inception, but our major gripe has been, and still remains, that UMLive does not offer any support for Android whatsoever. No mobile web access through your browser, no native Android application in the Google Play store. Robot World remains in ruins! Yesterday we were reminded of this painful fact when we could not access the brand new Raw Stewage 2015 without either buying it outright off the site (for the cost of a subscription) or subscribe to UMLive’s streaming service, which we cannot access on our phones. It was quite the conundrum and that is one of the reasons we have no Raw Stewage review for you this morning. While Umphrey’s has almost always been in tune with the needs of their fanbase and simultaneously making smart business decisions, this one has us scratching our heads. Almost everything that Umphrey’s does is of the highest caliber, vetted to the point of maximum satisfaction, yet this tool has slipped through the cracks. For UMLive to be a success, it is going to need some reconfiguration, starting with offering Android support. umlive 2014 survey In response to our 2014 Year in Review Survey, over 200 people (35% of our respondents) indicated that they would sign up for the UMLive Streaming Service if the bugs were fixed and Android support made available. If those 200 people sign up for atleast a month of UMLive, we’d be looking at $2000 increased income for the service, and that’s just based on our respondents. Think of the investment for the future! Right now, half of the   United States smartphone population are Robot World members, with the other half (w)Appley Sprayberry (both fight for US dominance, but it’s close to neck and neck). Worldwide, Android far outpaces Apple in ownership. Many applications launch on iOS, the bugs are removed and the issues regarding fragmentation resolved, and then it is ported over to Android, and Android users are used to this.  18 months, however, is a very long period of time, and that’s over $180 they could have gotten from this user alone in the past year if they offered Android support. For anyone watching their Google Analytics, we know that mobile users make up a HUGE portion of the spectrum when it comes to online presence. This type of move would ALSO help prevent the rampant piracy of live shows that exists online currently, allowing more individuals to hear the offerings without stealing them from the band they love. This seems like it should be easy money, so what’s up?

According to this tweet from Joel, the cost to develop the app is currently unreasonable, but we just think they haven’t found an Umphreaky developer yet willing to take on the work for an affordable rate and to better the cause of his/her fellow man/woman. When UMLive launched in 2013, Android still had a terrible developer studio and we believe this may be why Android was initially overlooked. However, in the past two years, Androids development enviroment has been replaced with the magnificent Android Studio. Problems that arose due to fragmentation and security among Android devices have been minimized. We believe a rageface Umphreak could do this for the band at a reasonable rate and help out others in their community. Think of it: possibly hundreds of new Umphreaks being able to access the service that allows unlimited access to UM’s entire SBD catalog post 2005, all from the glory of any mobile device. To this effect, they could even reasonably go with a “Mobile Responsive” website (like the awesome mobile version of Allthings.Umphreys), allowing anyone to be able to use the tool from their mobile web browser with ease while stroking the fires of this addiction.  All we want is to be able to blast shows from Jam in The Dam 2006 through our mobile phones while cruising down the highway, is that so much to ask?

Until then, we’ll have to settle for purchasing Raw Stewage 2015, though we’d rather just give Umphrey’s the same amount of money monthly and romp around their large collection, reliving the moments we have shared together limitless. Lets hope the future has something brighter for the Robot owners out there.

Show Umphrey’s your interest in UMLive coming to Android by signing this petition – if the band is aware of the demand, they may feel the development costs are more worth the undertaking! Show them how it will be an investment in the future by telling them “I would sign up for UMLive if it comes to Android!”