I first encountered the music of Shutterwax during 2014 with their album ‘Dig Me A Well’, and then had the pleasure of reviewing their EP “Hurricane in 2016. On both occasions I was blown away, especially when considering this band’s modus operandi. The brainchild of Jeffrey Brayne (Guitars, Vocals, Drums, Synths, Lyrics) and Mark Rufino (Bass, Synths) – and with full-time jobs and families – Shutterwax can only find the time to get together once a year to write and record as much material as possible over a 5 or 6 day stint in the studio. Hence Jeff, Mark and the rest of the line-up which includes Jessica Brayne (Vocals), Frank Diorio (Drums), Harvey Brice (Guitar and Vocals) and Zach Onett (Keyboards) get together annually, for what they call “an exercise in self-indulgence.”
They develop each song within a 4-5 hour time-frame and then record instantly what they’ve cultivated in that time. This obviously leaves very little time for re-thinking or reimagining a song, so I think what we’re getting with Shutterwax’s songs, are the purest, closest versions to the writers’ hearts as possible.
‘Disappointment’ is the third full album from Shutterwax and features songs all recorded in the aforementioned manner. The band describes the pervasive theme of the album as “a journey to Mars, picking up perhaps where Major Tom left off in Space Oddity.” If you’re looking for another album to sing along too, or craving that shower-time special recording, you might as well keep looking because you aren’t even close here.
Not because you couldn’t sing along to some of this stuff, you could. Especially the catchy and upbeat “Dreams Fall Away” or the lusciously soaring choral section in “Bristol Anthem”…it’s just that you just wouldn’t dare! Why would you want to screw up something this beautiful?
Always defying pop culture with breakthrough recordings, Shutterwax takes another leap forward on this album, in its quest for… well… whatever it is that Shutterwax has been searching for each summer in Jeff’s carriage house studio.
Let’s face it; Shutterwax is not your normal band, so why should they release a normal album? ‘Disappointment’ takes your usual alternative record and turns up the artistic liberties by about 100 notches as they move from progressive rock flavors to retro pop piquancy and psychedelic zest.
The most amazing thing about this album is that initially you are more likely to be in awe of it rather than be in love with it. But there will be a moment that it begins to become something you cannot do without. That happened for me instantly on the hypnotic and funky title track ‘Disappointment’. Jessica’s intoxicating voice disrupted my testosterone levels for hours with this song, as she did with “Hurricane”.
And it took a brilliantly atmospheric art-rock ballad like “Nothing Left But Breathing”, to break Jessica’s spell on me. I think this is the most emotionally stimulating experience that Shutterwax have bestowed on me…if not, this song is damn near the closest they have ever come. Especially with me being a Bowie fan!
Of course the sheer rocking dynamism and dirty guitar riffs of “Cinnamon Girl” won’t leave you indifferent either, and nor will the juxtaposed acoustic sounds of “Life Lessons For Kids” that closes the the 9 track album. Sincerely folks there are few indie bands that can touch Shutterwax.
With each release, they set new standards for themselves, in writing, engineering, arranging, performing and producing. And they do it in less than a week. Can you imagine what Shutterwax could be capable of if they played together every f*cking day!!
Full Credits for Shutterwax:
Jeffrey Brayne – guitars, vocals, drums, lyrics
Jessica Brayne – vocals, lyrics
Harvey Brice – guitars, vocals
Frank Diorio – drums, percussion
Steve Kelly – engineering, mixing, percussion
Zach Onett – piano, organs, synths
Mark Rufino – bass, synths
Keith Bonner – vocals on Hurricane and Disappointment
Kim Snyder – saxophone on Dreams Fall Away