“You Walked Up Shaking in Your Boots but You Stood Tall and Left a Raging Bull” Album Review

The newest release from Umphrey’s McGee, “You Walked Up Shaking in Your Boots but You Stood Tall and Left a Raging Bull“, is unique for more than the ample characters that make up its title. For starters, it’s an album built of songs that were previously reserved for the ‘intro’ portion of the set. The prologue for the opener. An hors d’oeuvres.

Just as one cannot read a book of prefaces, it sounds daunting to listen to an album of introductions. Would the band be able to expand these proems of accretion into full fledged songs? For the most part, the answer is yes. Umphrey’s has more than meager meals on the menu. The album struggles when the listener is left with jamband blue balls, witnessing drastic disconnects right when the musical subplot is starting to develop. The album is successful when the Introductions reflect back on their original themes while growing into comprehensive tunes with emotive sections, slick segues and pyrotechnic solos.  The Umphrey’s-faithful who journey out into this unique audio excursion will find that many of tracks on the album have all of that.

This includes the album’s leading track. Catshot perfectly reflects its roots while taking the tune beyond accession status. The intro on this album of intros, Catshot was tailor made to amplify Umphrey’s inherent energy.  A  simple, haunting piano slowly walks the song forward, unhurriedly joined by the rest of the band as they build towards a layered and complex crescendo.  Despite the fact that it ends abruptly, Catshot is successful in setting the tone and laying the foundation for the rest of the album.

No Crying in Mexico  is the first song which suffers under the restraints of limited track time. While it is longer than Catshot, it takes awhile before the tune really dials in. When it does, it is glorious, combining Floydesque guitar tones with a unexpected dance party, taking what was once a random rock-and-roller into a new realm. The song cuts out too quickly after its apex, leaving listeners thirsty for further development.

Leave Me Las Vegas is a plodding, distorted lurcher tune that does not vary much from its live iterations, a throw away on the album.  Stasik’s amazing legato runs, hidden in the mix, are the track’s only true treat. Leave Me Las Vegas needs more time to evolve, and needs to move beyond the trudging main riff to feel like more than just a foundation.

Depth Charge and You’ve Got the Wrong Guy also do not stray far from the renditions we have seen live, but it feels like there is more to build with here. The segue between the two is absolutely incredible and is the highlight of both tunes. Joined together, they form a far more satisfying song experience than they ever could standing alone. Hopefully, from now, on Depth Charge & Wrong Guy will be forever intertwined.

The second longest song on the album, Tango Mike has more emotional depth than all of the previous tunes combined. A reflective and poignant guitar leads in over the first minute until it is joined by the rest of the band. A separate fuzzy guitar joins the blend and brings a classic rock tone that really emphasizes the pensive mood of the song. Towards the conclusion, the song glides out of its rocky chorus into the main riff, and fades gently in satisfying fashion, a rarity on an album where some song-endings seem like afterthoughts.

Nipple Trix is a stunt show, a six string shredfest saturated in speedy solos crafted by neck wandering digits. The axe is accompanied by  a quick fingered synth solo whose sound amplifies the already high levels of excitement. Sadly, after all of this build, the song simply fizzles out. The finale is completely unsatisfying, considering the two minutes of fireworks that precede it.

Le Blitz suffers from a similar fate as Leave Me Las Vegas. It’s more energetic than LMLV, but lacks the amazing  Stasik fancy finger runs. A shuffling rock riff without a bridge, notable solos or unique soundscapes, Le Blitz is largely forgettable, save for the segue into its more interesting neighbor, Le Sac.

The only completely new material on this disc, Le Sac is a prepossessing and lightweight song which easily outshines its neighboring tracks. Twinned guitars envelop around elegant piano and evoke happy tears. This is the most beautiful track on the album. Le Sac isn’t so much an Intro as it is an Outro, and would make an unbelievable epilogue to an especially epic set.

There is a lot of energy in Gurgle, but much like Nipple Trix, it fires up and fizzles like a sparkler. All of the the segments are wonderful – the weird phaser-like throaty lead-in, the driven guitar riff – but epic sections or incendiary solos never materialize. Gurgle has a ton of promise, and not enough time.

The final two tracks on the album are two of the best. A song that can certainly be described as cinematic, Restrung is walk-in-slowmo music. The track is a reworking of the intro Unsung Hero. Joel is a highlight throughout the song. An unending simple and pretty piano is juxtaposed alongside prominent, midi-esque keys that lead the Restrung with an air of extravagance generally saved for royalty. Thoughtful and well placed six strings adorn the riff, and build a song that is both melodic and energetic at once. The conclusion cleanly passes into the next track perfectly, nearly fusing the two.

If there is an opus on this disc, it is October Rain. The album’s finale feels like the most well developed track of the dozen and is extremely enjoyable.  A microcosm of the album itself, the song is crafted by well developed build/crescendo segments. October Rain dances in on mysterious guitars, and light hand drums before being joined by a wandering piano riff and amplified by the developing thunder of Kris’ drums. Twice, there is a minor build – wonderfully punctuated by Stasik’s bass riff – before exploding into free flying guitars. The band tapers the energy momentarily before relaunching with a vibrancy unlike anywhere else on the album. Here, the focus on Kris’ energy is delightful, the snare and cymbal work reminiscent of Math Rock, delivering fervent support at the exact right moments for energize and emotional emphasis. Now that this song has burgeoned into its own full-fledged epic, it deserves a spot mid-setlist.

Most of the drawbacks to this disc are found in the limitations of the short form chosen, with many tracks that feel like they’re just about to get cooking before they abruptly halt. The band could have gotten a lot more out of No Crying in Mexico, Gurgle, and Nipple Trix if they had more room to breathe. They’re too good to remain preludes.

Now that many of these Introductions have stretched into true songs, it would be cool to hear them worked into the center of the setlist. The desire to see these offerings flourish as something larger than a preface is likely in the heart of every Umphreak, and it would be neat if they could be opened up as an avenue of improvisational exploration.

It’s almost surprising how successful You Walked Up Shaking In Your Boots but You Stood Tall and Left a Raging Bull is at creating a cohesive package from songs that were never meant to be more than prefaces. The transitions between songs create a satisfying journey  that cannot be appreciated when listed to on shuffle. As always, Umphrey’s is willing to an auditory risk in the studio and walk away from the experiment largely successful.

For the most part, on You Walked Up Shaking in Your Boots but You Stood Tall and Left a Raging Bull, Umphrey’s is serving up more than just appetizers.

Top Tracks:
Nipple Trix
Le Sac
Tango Mike
October Rain


Review: “A Day in the Dock”


Everything about  A Day in the Docks  should induce sheer excitement for Umphreaks. While almost all of the band members host some sort of tutoring through the LiveLessonMasters platform, many of the band members have also crafted extra-curricular offerings. Joel Cummins has taken up a weekly Wednesday night slot and started soliciting for curbside concerts, Brendan Bayliss has his occasional #WineNot Friday night sessions, Ryan has sporadic drunken fanhangs, occasionally alongside Bayliss. Jake Cinninger, the stunt guitarist whose shred speed could tear paint from an airplane, has been relatively quiet throughout Covid Times, but don't mistake that discreetness for idleness. A Day in the Docks is full of unreleased new tunes, some of the most thoughtful and well developed music we've heard since the start of the pandemic. 

The video opens with Jake briefly introducing us to Boondocks Studios, a humble studio in Niles, Michigan where Jake has found creative inspiration throughout the decades, and a new composition, Covid 5. Framed by a simple, mellow pace, Jake's style is pretty and energetic, bringing us through powerful chord bursts and easy flowing hammer-ons that strongly hints at Spanish Classical Guitar. The arrangement is enchanting and while it's always impressive how many notes Jake can juggle at once on one instrument, here it is unbelievably fun to watch.

Afterwards, we are treated to a unique experiment in which Jake crafts three sections of a song right before our eyes, layering tracks - first synthesizer, then drums and finally bass. The disjointed tune, Drumazoid, has some portions which are insanely fun,  and it is amazing how all of the sections do eventually tie into each other -  especially once you add the bass. Ultimately, the song is itself might be too discombobulated to take for a walk outside of the studio.

This is followed by a more organic sounding improvisation where Jake pulls a stool up to the piano. After giving praise to the improvisation gods, Cinninger creates a deep and hypnotizing tone by repeatedly strumming on the exposed piano strings with a guitar pick. The refrain frames the entire work hauntingly while the chords play in the grey area between frightening and beautiful. Cinematic like a movie score, it is amazing that and extemporized piece can have the emotional depth that conductors work years to obtain.

Covid 10 is the most complete composition created during covid times that Jake unveils. Described as a more Progressively based arrangement, Jake introduces us to a very stripped down, delayered mix of the song and walks us through each element of the track, from choosing a time signature, to how the drum sections might sound, to potential inspirations for future solos. It’s extremely informative and is essential watching for anyone interested in Cinninger’s songwriting process and is excellent foreshadowing for when, moments later, Jake busts out a guitar plays the track again, this time accompanied by fully fleshed out riffs and Floyd inspired solos. It seems near certain that we are getting an early glimpse at a future Umphrey's track.

Relatively standard renditions of Women, Wine & Song and Bad Poker follow and are beautifully done, but are overshadowed by an acoustic 40s Theme that is delightful. Jake seems surprised by the challenge to play the track acoustically, and it is fantastic to watch his fingers set fire to the fretboard as they tear through the song’s opening sections. 

Those who purchase the documentary also receive access to Jake covering Romanza, originally written by Mauro Malavasi and recorded by Andrea Bocelli. Short and beautiful, the song may lend a hint into Jake's influences during the pandemic started, especially on the aforementioned Covid 5.

Jake’s mini-documentary format pays off in spades. It was easy to purchase and easy to access without The fact that the video is available for purchase at a reasonable price and can be replayed as long as your heart desires adds great value. While there is something exciting and fun about seeing jams crafted live before your eyes (even via livestream), this prerecorded composition is more captivating than most streams we've seen this pandemic because the musical content is more well developed, fresh and innovative. We guarantee you'll watch it more than once. 

Update #4:

Let's Review

Good evening awesome people!

It's been awhile since we gave an update regarding the Umphrey's McRPG project. With so much going on this past fall, it has not been easy to find time to just pop in and give a written appraisal of the situation. We will be better about this throughout 2019 as we complete this game.

Last time we spoke, we provided you with a preview of our Ryan chibi and a mini movie of that sprite in action. At that time we hadn't planned on providing any other additional character stuff, but, ya'know, things change and stuff. Everything we show you here is subject to change by the games final release - we've already gone through six versions of Brendan, and while we're nearing the final look for his sprite, we've got lots of work to do on the rest of his art.

So, just to recap, here's what we had for Ryan:




Bayliss Faces

Brendan has taken more work. Ryan's accessories (hat, sunglasses) do a lot to make his character pop and make him easily recognizable. For Brendan, the development as been slower as we've weighed the benefits of different hair colors, different outfits. Bayliss has brown eyes but we thought for a short time he might have blue eyes, and the character you will see in these shots does have blue eyes.

Here's the basic outline portrait types we plan to use with Brendan:



The Battle Sequence

The battle system that comes with the little game engine we are using for development - RPG Maker MV (that we were able to purchase thanks to all you wonderful people) is somewhat boring and default on it's own. Changing it up is a complex but fun process and has allowed us to greatly upgrade the "feel" of the battles. We've included a "before/after" shot to illustrate how default the "default" is and how much nicer it can be with just a little sprucing. For some reason, the gifs seem to have turned out a tiny bit squished - not certain why this is. :-/


  Old Battle Camera

New Battle Camera


That's about it for this update. We've done tons of other stuff, like programmed in dozens of special weapons, crafted dozens of maps, and started entering in some quests. We're very excited about this project and we hope this update helped keep your interest piqued as well!

We'll provide further and more frequent updates throughout this year!!

Update 3

For the purposes of this update, I plan to write as if you (the audience) are completely unfamiliar with the Role Playing Games. Some people reading this are likely more than aware of the genre and if you’re here only to see the little Ryan sprite, skip below to the “Media” spoiler sections and expand them.

To those who are unfamiliar with Role Playing Games are maybe are just looking for a bit of context, read on. I’m not trying to overexplain anything, just provide give a very high level gloss over. I try to cover where our inspirations come from and also generally touch on what we’re trying to create, how the game’s battle system will work, etc. Regardless, so far it’s been super fun…I’m addicted and I cannot stop developing this thing – which is good, I suppose.

What is a role playing game (RPG)?

Role playing games wide-spanning genre of interactive entertainment with many subgenres, most of which focus on vast immersive worlds, character/party development, expansive storytelling, magical skills and item collection. The category covers games from fantasy games like Dungeons & Dragons , Zelda  and Skyrim, to online games like World of Warcraft, to post apocalyptic games like Fallout .  Games are usually long and feature a complex main narrative and several interwoven ongoing subplots, villains and henchmen,

What is Umphrey’s MCrpg’s style based on?
A battle has a yellow rabbit like pokemon call pikachu pitted against a bird like pokemon call pidgey across a green field. A window with several options like attack and run are listed on the bottom.

Turn based battle system in Pokemon

As we mentioned in our poorly written Kickstarter campaign funding request, I have had an ardent fan of RPGs since childhood. And while I played all the subgenres, my favorites were turn based Japanese RPGs like the Phantasy Star , Pokemon and Dragon Quest. Even Super Mario got a turn-based version — I dedicated hours to it, and it was glorious! The most critically acclaimed of the subgenre (and the ones I hammered out the most hours on) were the Final Fantasy series . Their blend of middle age fantasy, sci-fi futuristic revolutions, horror and steampunk aesthetics absolutely captivated me.

Turn based games allow players to focus on strategy over speed in combat. Players are rewarded for their thoughtfulness, craftiness and knowledge of their enemy across the battlefield. Like a game of chess, players can relax and consider their moves before attacking, deciding to heal an ally or evading the situation entirely. While at one point it seemed that the turn-based RPG was a dying breed, it recently has seen a resurgence in popular culture, thanks especially to the popularity of mobile gaming and the Nintendo DS.

Picture of four character facing off against a Samarri villain. Several choices are along the bottom of the screen in a blue window with a character's name and several options like "attack" and "items"

The Turn Based Battle System of Final Fantasy VI

This is the gaming system and style of art we hope to emulate within Umphrey’s McRPG and thankfully the game engine that we’re working with, RPG Maker MV, is perfect for just that. The characters are small and not terribly detailed. They are sorta like  a combination between anime and Funko toys. That said, all those small details add up and things like custom unique weapons, attack animations, spell casting animations, battle swag all make for a visually interesting experience. What you will see below is just a draft. It is not  finished for the project as of yet, though Ryan is likely the closest out of any of our sprites to the finish product. We also have a very rough outline for a Ryan face, however, we will need the assistance of an artist in the community (if there are any volunteers) if we are to make the faces more detailed. As I have said before, I am a writer and I know how to use this engine to make games, but unfortunately my graphic design skills are somewhat limited.


The below contains information regarding the setting of the game and some elements of gameplay. This may be considered a spoiler to some. If you want to know as little as possible about where the game takes place before it comes out, read no further.


There are over three hundred original Umphrey’s tunes from which we can draw inspiration for many of the various elements of the game. Incorporate that with hundreds of venues and festivals and other various scene elements, and we have a plethora of material to start with. Even so, with all the thousands of locations, towns, characters — especially when it comes to names — we’ve needed to borrow inspiration from music, mythology, video games, art and astronomy, alongside Umphrey’s and the jamband scene.

For this to be a fun game to play, we knew we would need to create a solar system that is sufficiently alive enough to be immersive, yet relevant and built around our musical scene. We are  making sure the worlds are in depth and we have crafted what we think is an amazing story that will make you care about the characters and their quest and the worlds around them, hate their nemesis and his henchmen, enjoy your time exploring and wondering what will be around every corner, all while not being overly blatant or corny, but also not being irrelevant and pointless. We want to make sure there is history to this solar system, culture to these cities and life to these planets…and purpose to the mission.

Without saying too much, just know that the game takes place in across several planets as the band journeys to find Andy’s last beer and save their solar system from a menacing force that threatens to destroy all artistic freedom and creative works in existence!


And now, the Ryan sprite preview. What you will see below is just a draft. It is not the finished project, though Ryan likely the closest out of any of our sprites to the finish product.


The border is not part of the game, it’s an effect we threw on the video. This picture is heavily cropped just to focus on Ryan in the battle.


The border is not part of the game, it’s an effect we threw on the video. This picture is heavily cropped just to focus on Ryan in the battle.


Last points of business – if you’re a musician, a writer, programmer or a visual artist of any sort (graphic designers, drawers, painters, photographers) and are willing to volunteer some of your creative efforts towards this project, we need your help! This is a huge project and we would love/appreciate/celebrate any interest any artists might take. If you think you would like to see your art come to life through an Umphrey’s related video game, we would love to have you on the team. This is entirely a volunteer project, no one will end up getting paid from this creation, but we’ll all end up having a challenging and fun time creating and playing the thing! Get at us here or on our Twitter, Instagram or Facebook pages and let us know you’d like to help!

…Next Update! Let’s Tauk Weapons!….

Make sure to follow this project on social media Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Update 2

Hi there Umphreaks! We wanted to quickly update you just to bring you up to over the past couple weeks since we last spoke. Firstly, our Kickstarter has ended and we are more than double funded, so we wanted to thank you from the bottom of our Umphlovin’ hearts that you think this project will be as fun as we do!! With these funds, we have bought upgrades to the game engine’s software and also give small contributions to artists in the community who are volunteering their time toward this project. If you’re an artist and have an interest in volunteering your time towards something like this project, please hit us up. We always have something doin’ for graphic artists, writers and musicians.

Speaking of other artists contributing to the project, we are proud to announce that Scott Hannay of Umphrey’s McNES is allowing us usage of his awesome 8 bit recreations of Umphrey’s tunes for the game! Your epic turn based battles are ensured to have an absolutely amazing soundtrack! Thank you so much, Scott!!

We have been hard at work developing various maps for the game, laying down the ground work mechanics, creating a full timeline of the main narrative, programming weapons and developing a setting. Our goal is to create an immersive, fun and relevant environment full of band innuendos and nods to the greater jam community alongside homages to music, science fiction, astronomy and art in general. It’s been tons of fun to imagine an entire solar system for this adventure to take place in and we think you’ll find the experience fun and funny as well as engaging — we want to avoid our players thinking “oh, just another UM tie-in for no reason“, and have them moreso thinking “absolutely awesome/hilarious how they worked in that reference“.

Much more on the setting and maybe even a preview of one of our characters and some of the animation next update. Items we have purchased thus far include several tileset upgrades and the updated game engine (RPG Maker MV), obtained art for many relevant enemies. We’ve also spent countless numbers of hours downloading and editing in animations and software.

Finally, we wanted to thank everyone for funding this project. It has received positive attention and feedback beyond what we ever could have dreamed. Hope you have an absolutely fantastic weekend and we’ll provide more information and goodies for you next week!

Update 1: Funded!

Amazing!!! – several EXTREMELY positive developments have occurred throughout the day today!

First and foremost – WE ARE FUNDED! Thank you thank you thank you!! Umphreaks across the country cannot wait to see this project get started and we are honored and humbled that so many came together and donated their hard-earned dough to see this become a reality. We promise to work diligently to craft this turn-based sci-fi epic. We will keep you posted every step of development (without spoilers) through (atleast) monthly updates, blog posts and on our Twitter page.

The second awesome development is that the software that we will be using to make this game – (the one we mentioned in the original funding blurb) RPG Maker MV – just so happened to randomly go on sale this afternoon! Which is awesome!! We were able to pick up the software at a third of its general sale cost which means we are able to make all funds we’ve raised go much further as the main software package is the majority of our cost!! We will be able to use the additional funding towards purchasing add-ons, additional graphics and tilesets. If there are any costs associated with the game eventually being published in the Google Play or Apple stores, we’ll also put any additional left over funds towards that.

In relation to that, please feel free to keep sharing with your friends (no pressure, of course, we already have more than we could have imagined thanks to your amazing, kind magnanimity) – though we are already funded, any additional donations will be used to purchase more art, more midi music, more animations that are already in existence within the community and will make it so we have to do less of that custom programming ourselves and can focus on the game mechanics, storyline, layout, etc. Once again, no pressure, you just are already awesome and this is already awesome and we are so excited to get started building this game, but never hurts to click the share button.

it’s you Album Review

Umphrey’s has been a busy band. Within the past five months, the group has released a fantastic album, played over thirty-three shows, released a remix disc, reanimated numerous side projects. Now, Umphrey’s adds to that amazing production rate with an unanticipated full-length disc, full of eccentric new tracks and studio iterations of fan favorites, ensuring that Umphrey’s zealots will certainly find something that will delight them in 2018. “it’s you” is the second solid record to come from this recording session and, similar to its predecessor, not every track is instantaneously accessible. Umphreaks will need to revisit some tracks repeatedly to make their own assessment, becoming further smitten with each listen. Where “it’s not us” focused on juxtaposition throughout every element, “it’s you” feels more like a giant soup of songs that turned out as tasty (or better) as its glossy predecessor.

Triangle Tear, with its complex opening, with its interlocking guitar and keys riffs, followed arena rock style build, starts the album off with tons of energy. Unfortunately, the over-polished, heavily layered vocals do not serve the run-on cryptic lyrics well, neither does their sing-song delivery and they are lace themselves extensively throughout the verses. When stripped from the glitz, Triangle Tear has a chance to really shine and the song is redeemed through its instrumental offerings like the opening riff, short manic guitar solos, and a breakout cessation segment which acts as a placeholder for prospective improvisational drop-ins in a live environment.

(Editor’s Note: Since we penned this review, Triangle Tear was played live at Summercamp Music Festival…and it sounds much better live.)

What We Could Get is a crunchy, Jake Cinninger led tune that is interjected by haunting vocals, a wailing guitar riff and a passionate, engaging chorus. A fuzzy, subtle acoustic guitar creates a satisfying depth to flesh out the resonant verses as concise riffs provide breaks between chorus cycles.

The following track, Push & Pull, highlights Brendan Bayliss’ trademark enigmatic lyrics which feel as if they could apply to a myriad of situations. The minstrel’s ability to say something profound without being over specific has been a hallmark of the band since inception, and here the words triumph impeccably. There are no snarling solos or resounding drums. Instead, vocals are the main feature and the end of the tune is accentuated by a Beatles-esque harmonized section that would make Paul McCartney grin.

One of the strongest tracks on the album is In the Black. Though the band has only taken the tune out of the garage for tune-ups a few times since the song, the jam has drummed up considerable demand among the fanbase. It was only a matter of time before this refined monster made its way back onstage. Instructions as to paying one’s debts and getting a word in are embedded in complex, orchestrated verses that jerkily hop to the chorus. Towards the end of the track, the hollow call of ‘Maybe it’s me and I’m misunderstanding you, lately it feels like I’m never getting through’ only gains meaning with each restatement until its powerful cry breaks into an monumental solo.

There is beauty in simplicity and Xmas at Wartime embodies this, especially when said clarity is surrounded by the complex cavalcade that is an Umphrey’s album. Lyricless quiet space can often be an unheralded respite and Xmas at Wartime exemplifies that tranquility. The keys interlace exquisitely with the acoustic guitars, reminding us of snowflakes in December and inspiring unalloyed emotion for the listener.

Seasons has a mesmerizing and jarring effect, forming a track that gleefully skips between main sections abruptly. Unfortunately, the hallway vocal effects detract slightly from the delivery of Bayliss’ thoughtfully crafted lyrics. This is easy to forgive as other elements like background guitars, interweaved piano and moogy key solos, make this a highlight among the previously unheard tunes. Light touches from the group’s special percussionist Andy Farag are scattered throughout the song, crescendoing to powerful, thunderous hand drum segment that swells the fervor within your spirit. Keyboardist Joel Cummin’s solitary trail off at the end adds a stupendous emotional brush stroke to a fantastically executed track, one we will hopefully hear many iterations of for years to come.

The heaviest track on “its you” is easily Netherand it shares the most in common with some of the bolder “it’s not us” tracks, blending tonal splashes from Dark Brush and Looks into a ritual that may cause you to redig through the closet for your Blood Altar. A gently distorted palm muted riff is quickly intermixed with whirling spiral keys. There is so much to love about this song. From the irrepressible lyrics and stilted build to the minute details, like a twinkling layer of Joel’s piano buried deep within the mix, or Kris Meyer’s snap drums and swift high-hat play, make for a delightfully produced tune that might be the best on the disc.

Like a drunken round hollered among arm in arm buddies across a crowded tavern, Hanging Chads makes for a amusing reprieve with a happy hate song. This track will be a ton of fun live one day, you can nearly imagine a room full of Umphreaks shouting the explicit lyrics in unison.

Veteran Attachments was born for the studio. Though the song debuted in late 2015 and has seen fifty-two plays since premier, in a live environment it often becomes muddled and fails to hold together sonically or to elevate into a meaningful jam. Not so on “it’s you”. The guitars are extremely well captured. The harmonies are clear and all falsettos pulled flawlessly. The solo is deliberate, skillful and sprightly. Studio clarity allows this track to truly shine as one of the few tracks in Umphrey’s catalogue that is better in the booth.

Fan favorite Upward is the strongest song lyrically on the disc.  This track has been a fan favorite since its inception in 2014,  when it had been paired with its inebriated falsetto brother Onwards at UMBowl 5, and it’s easy to see why. The first minute of Upward’s studio iteration is a bit different than its live antecedents: Bayliss, a lone acoustic guitar and a hanging electric high note punctuating the space. It nearly changes the entire mood of the song, momentarily lending a stripped bare take to a jam that’s always seemed so gloriously grandiose. The new arrangement can be a bit jarring for those who have become so familiar with the standard Upward’s intro, however, that familiarity is restored as the percussion comes crashing in before the second verse. The studio version does justice to a track already cemented into heavy rotation, sitting at a seat among the classics.


It is inevitable and somewhat unfair to “it’s you” that it always will be compared with“it’s not us” – the naming convention and time of release basically begs us to, though they are not audibly companion pieces. Without that contrast they stand on their own as separate, expertly crafted compositions. Many of the newest tunes are not as immediately accessible as anything from “it’s not us“, the band’s latest release probably shouldn’t be a novice’s first listen. That said, song-for-song, “it’s you” is more enjoyable than its precursor and seasoned Umphreaks will be gratified to find this disc has shed the poppy sheen that glossed the band’s previous work.

It is prototypical Umphrey’s to craft a secret, intricate and epic surprise like their most recent album.  The backend of the album is stacked with contenders for masterpiece jam vehicle mainstays and we can only hope that the songs on “it’s you” receive more live attention than their most recent forerunners. While Umphrey’s has yet to recreate a studio chef-dœuvre on par with their 2009 opus “Mantis”, it is not for lack of trying, and with “it’s you” their beginning to breach that level once more. The best part of this album is that it ignites excitement and optimism in the heart of any devotee. This is obviously not a band waning, relegating themselves to a handful of bustout-less shows in select easy sell out cities. Instead, this is a band who will not rest until they get the chance to give us their best, who is dedicated to the continued crafting distinct, unpredictable and challenging music in both live and studio environments. We happily intend to listen to every note of it.

Top Tracks:
In the Black


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

UMANON Radio in 2017?

Should Umphreak’s Anonymous revive their livestreaming radio project?

In early 2016, we killed off a pet project that we adored, but had neither the time or funding to support properly, Umphreaks Anonymous Radio. Inspired by Sirius/XM’s “Grateful Dead Channel”, SCIRadio.com and other similar projects, we created a 24/7 online streaming hub where fans could tune in from anywhere and hear Umphrey’s AUDs of new shows and SBDs of classics, alongside original podcasts, special events broadcasts, and more. However, because Umphreak’s Anonymous is a fan administered volunteer organization which focuses on celebrating the fanbase AND the music that we love, we soon found that we could not self-fund UMANON Radio. We considered selling advertising time to Pinjas and other scene related artists as a way to keep the feel of the radio within our culture and not have it be some ugly Google Adspace (our website contains no advertisements, either), but the organization this would require was nearly impossible for our small team in 2016.

Now, we are punting the idea of reviving Umphreak’s Anonymous Radio, seeing if the community would have an interest in kickstarting the project. For around $200, we can likely revive Umphreak’s Anonymous Radio and provide the team enough resources to purchase the multicast space and create original podcasts (likely once monthly) for a year. If it goes well, we could likely create more podcasts, and accept fan created podcasts of quality to put on the stream.

However we’ve been wondering if this is something the fanbase would even be interested in? One thing we know about Umphreaks, they love their favorite shows or listening to the most recent one the whole way through. Umphreaks also already have many options to get their music, including Nugs.Net and UMLive and our souce, Archive.org. That also brings up a point as well, the Radio is powered by Archive.org because we do not own the rights to broadcast new Umphrey’s SBDs across the globe – that would probably require several hundred, or possibly thousand, more dollars. Not all the audio is crispy (though some is quite crisp), and tapers are a megavital resource to keeping music alive and FREE for the public, and the band certainly seems to recognize, respect and love it. Either way – is this, a 24 hour streaming Umphrey’s station, something Umphreaks would even use?

As we move into 2017, Umphreak’s Anonymous has big plans as part of a refocusing of our resources. We’re moving our website away from its previous social structure (though there are forums there), and refocusing on multimedia that highlights the fanbase and those who are addicted to the facemelting jams we crave. This likely means the active return of the Umphreak Collective (our creative online fanzine), and our humorous blog The Utopian Blur. This also means continuing to feature absolutely gorgeous photography from some of the best who capture our favorite band, like Tara Gracer Design & Photography. We want to be more than your standard community fanpage. This amazing band has some amazing fans, and as a community we can create some cool shit – we’ve never asked those that follow this page to fund any of our projects before, and we’re not certain the community would even want to create this tool or if you would rather see us focus on something else (and if so, what?!), but we want to put these concepts out there incase it’s something you’d like to help us create. Should we?

Happy new year, all! Lets rage together in 2017!

[photo from Tara Gracer, New Years Eve Run 2016]

7/9/2016 Setlist – New tune, amazing song selection…


Set 1: Lord Bail Ship[1] > 1348 > White Man’s Moccasins, Loose Ends > Resolution > Similar Skin, Dump City, Spires > The Floor

Set 2: The Bottom Half > Sweetness > Cut the Cable > The Bottom Half, Red Tape > Meeting in the Aisle > Red Tape, Phil’s Farm > 1348

Encore: Time

[1] debut, original
Support: The Werks