‘Lies… and All That Jazz’ by Dead Fish Handshake [Album Review]

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The story behind ‘Lies… and All That Jazz’ (from the band)

In 2011, Dead Fish Handshake (stylized as DFH) burst onto the scene with the release of their debut EP, Across State Lines. Formed by Rhode Island native, Matthew Paul and New Jersey native, Rob Ferreira to be an acoustic side project, the pair eventually enlisted Darren Furman and Mark Birkelbach, thus solidifying their foundation. Their first single, “Changes”, helped the band breakthrough into the New Jersey Rock scene, develop a strong local following and gain popularity with their incredible live performances.

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The following year, DFH began writing sessions for what would become their sophomore EP entitled The Sixes, released in June 2012, produced by Clint Lowery (Sevendust). The EP garnered national attention with the lead single, “Turning a Blind Eye”, followed shortly by the second single, “Leave The Light On” which became the band’s most popular song to date. “Leave the Light On” became a message of hope and was used in helping victims of Hurricane Sandy. The band seized on this popularity and went on a national tour, the self-titled “Leave The Light On Tour” took their modern rock sound to the road and to the rest of the nation. In 2014, the band returned with the double single release of “Nothing Stays Gold” and “All Time Low”, again working with Clint Lowery. DFH took another step in enhancing their modern rock sound.

DFH emerged from much needed down time in 2017, with two additional singles, ”Devolution” and “Love/Remains”. Both equally important to their catalogue, the two songs were in stark contrast to each other. “Devolution” a high energy, frantic and socially conscious song became the band’s most streamed offering to date. “Love/Remains”, quickly became a fan favorite with its blending of country and rock to form a meaningful, introspective ballad.

On August 7th, and taken from their forthcoming LP, Lies… and All That Jazz, the single, “No One’s Island”, was released.

Lies… and All That Jazz, co-produced by Dead Fish Handshake and Shane Stanton of Architekt Studios, will be released to all major outlets on September 18th , 2020. This LP is DFH firing on all cylinders. The band is honoring a timeless mainstream rock sound while bringing their innovative melodies and sonic textures to new audiences, by showcasing influences from Foo Fighters, A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails and U2. DFH has shared the stage with Stone Temple Pilots, Sevendust, Three Doors Down, Fuel, Scott Stapp, Paul Rodgers, Ed Kowalczyk, Queensryche, Pop Evil, Collective Soul, Saving Abel, Gin Blossoms, Plain White T’s, Godsmack, Skillet, Anthrax, Living Colour, Hurt, and Extreme.

Vocals

The first thing that stood out to me about this album was the vocals.

I like that they had a darker tone to them because of a further back placement. I know probably a lot of people don’t consider this but I find that rock vocals tend to have a lot of forward placement–they can have a lot of nasality in them depending on what the singers range is like and they can tend to stay on a thinner-sounding side because they tend to add a lot of rasp and other manipulations.

Point is that if I want to find a really good crisp vocal I never go to rock music. There’s something with the slang and the laid-back quality to the music that makes it less important for the vocals to be well controlled and to fall under what is considered “good vocal practices”.

And I’m a big fan-girl of vocals that use a farther back placement and have a darker tone to them because that’s the way I sing and it’s not the common vocal tone you find. One of my big trials in life is that I love rock music and I very much do not have the voice for rock music–it always sounds like I’m a Disney Channel star trying to sound edgy. It’s just something I’m going to have to accept about the world.

It adds a nice warmth and depth to the songs and personally I find this kind of vocal tends to have a lot more weight and emotion to it just because it’s got more power behind it.

I know that might be hard to wrap your head around because a lot of forward placed vocals tend to have crazy high notes or they have screams added into the mix which feel like they should be more powerful but I think having a really solid base to the vocal makes it able to plant its feet in the mix and it’s able to stand out really well.

For the opening tracks of this album there’s a lot of instrumentation going on–a lot of layers to what’s happening with the instruments–but it’s not something I noticed right away because the vocals didn’t have to fight it at any point. They were powerful enough to just exist in the mix on their own frequency and they didn’t have to fight with electric guitars or drums or any of the other layers that were happening.

Instruments

As for the instruments on this album, they’re really solid.

I can’t point to any one thing that really bothered me about what was going on from an instrument standpoint.

I also can’t point at something that really stood out to me. I don’t know if it was something about the mixing or what. I think mostly it’s just that it’s a solid instrumental section in that it’s well done and it matches the mood of the song but it also doesn’t highlight any specific part of it. There aren’t any moments where the drummer really shows off or guitarist or there’s some interesting samples mixed in or anything like that–which doesn’t mean that it isn’t a pleasure to listen to.

However I think being someone who spends as much time listening to music and picks it apart means that I am always listening for that little piece of the song that sticks out from anything else that I’ve heard. And that’s getting harder and harder to pull off so I don’t think it’s a legitimate criticism.

One problem that I did have with the album overall is that I wasn’t super fond of the slow down near the end.

I don’t mean the instrumental piece which I actually really like because I’m a fan of musicians who put in purely instrumental interludes into their albums. I know there are a lot of people out there who will skip those songs every time they listen to an album but I tend to always listen to them all the way through if not seek them out on occasion.

It’s the other slower songs that I’m really not a fan of. Especially since the more energetic songs are at the beginning of the album and then things kind of feel like they peter out by the end.

I’m also just not a fan of slow rock songs in general. I think that they’re a little bit cheesy and hard to take seriously. I blame Nickelback. It’s the kind of songs that I don’t find myself connecting to and I usually have a hard time believing in the emotion that’s being described. It’s different from a stripped back piece which I think can really highlight specific elements of the band but in this case I wasn’t a big fan of the ending of the album.

Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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