Album Review: Signals Midwest – Light On The Lake

Signals Midwest - Light On the LakeI know I have said in the past that I usually  do not review any of my friend’s album releases, but I seriously think it’s time to change that.

Within the last year alone, a whole slew of my friends have been dropping excellent releases left and right.  Many of those said releases were immediately thrown into my regular rotation and also made it to my “Best Of 2013” list without me even thinking twice.

One of these bands I speak of is Cleveland’s heartthrobs (and beer snobs), Signals Midwest.  I learned of them through friends who had shared stages and basements with them and soon became not only a fan, but also a friend.  All four members are some of the coolest, kindest people I know.

They have a musical style that ranges from punk rock to indie rock while also carrying a progressive technical grace that is just so appealing.  Featuring Max Stern on guitar / vocals, Jeff “JR” Russell on guitar, Loren Shumaker on bass, and Steve Gibson on drums, the band has been doing their thing since late 2008.

The band’s sophomore release of Latitudes & Longitudes was easily one of my favorite releases in 2012.  It was no surprise that I turned into even an bigger fan once I heard Light On The Lake.  Yeah, it may have dropped a few months back, but after listening to it again today, I realized I needed to write a little something-something about it.

Released through the ever cool folk at Tiny EnginesLight On The Lake is an impressive release from start to finish.  It’s an album not only composed of great tunes but also layered with a very narrative story containing a journey of self-realization, injury, and coming to terms.  The more I read into the story throughout this album, the more I am loving it.

“308” started off the album with Stern and crew singing a somber yet catchy into.   With Stern singing, “give me time ’cause I’m trying to process this”, clearly emotions were beginning to rise.  I really dug how the opening track snuck its way into “In The Pauses”.  I enjoyed this track tremendously with continual up and down arrangements throughout.

“A Room Once Called Yours” picked things up, but the song continued down a gloomy route.  The guitar playing and brutal drumming really is what grabbed my attention throughout.  I loved when Stern sang: “So why do we decide to leave when what we really wanna do is stay? And when all we want to do is sleep, we force ourselves awake.”

“St. Vincent Charity” sat on me heavier than the others with technical guitar playing added to an array of group harmonies throughout.  What a killer track to listen to.  Listening to the song build up and climax was beyond satisfying.  The lyrics though is what made this song so poignant.  Easily this was one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Having been far away from home before leaving loved ones behind, “The Desert To Denver” really stuck to me.  I felt that I really related to the lyrics: “Save me from sinking in this city. Be the light that guides me home.”  After all, it was the love in my current relationship as well as from my friends and family that kept me stable until I was able to travel back east.

Signals Midwest - Photo by Andee Wells
Signals Midwest – Photo Credit: Andee Wells

I loved Loren’s distorted bass-smashing on “Lowercase”.  It really reached back to the 90s alt-rock that I have always adored.

“San Anselmo” opened reminding me of an Avett Brother’s song – no joke.  Remember the part in “Pretty Girl From Chili”right after Gabriella’s voicemail?Ok, I am sure I lost some of you just now.  Anyways…the song opened up pretty awesomely and just continued to amaze throughout.  I loved this west-coast-love-affair-with-a-rust-belt-local track so much.

Closing the album was “A Glowing Light, An Impending Dawn”, a track that was like a tribute and a procession.  The song put the album to rest as well as the story that was being told throughout.  It started softly and built up almost to a celebration status, only to thin out.

I’m pleased to have gotten to know these swell guys over the last few years and plan on keeping them pals for life.  From seeing them live on stage to hanging out with them for a night when I was out in the middle of nowhere, these dudes are top notch.

Cleveland is full of amazing bands and honestly, this is the best the music scene has been for as long as I can remember.   Take that how you want it, but if you are not caught up with the area talent, then maybe you need to turn your attention to some of these hard working acts in the area.  Start with Signals Midwest and branch out accordingly.  You will not be disappointed.

Signals Midwest are playing Brite Winter Fest this weekend before taking a well-deserved break.  You can follow their shenanigans on their Tumblr page or on good ol’ Facebook.

To snag your very own copy of Light On The Lake, head on over to the Tiny Engines website and give them all of your money.


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