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CD of The Week

Week of 4/02/18

    Jukebox The Ghost - Off To The Races (Caroline)

    It's been four years since piano power pop trio Jukebox the Ghost released an album, and an eventful four years at that. After releasing their 2014 self-titled record on Cherrytree, the band went completely independent from 2016 on, then crowdfunded a live album on Kickstarter. They also toured, a lot, including their new tradition of annual "HalloQueen" shows for the past three Halloweens, where the band plays a set of their own songs followed by a full set of Queen covers, costumes and all.

    Also, each band member pursued their own personal projects. Guitarist/vocalist Tommy Siegel created "dystopian future rock" band Narc Twain and released an EP; pianist/vocalist Ben Thornewill released a solo album of instrumental piano arrangements; and drummer (and very occasional vocalist) Jesse Kristin fronted his own Tom Petty-inspired rock band Jesse Dylan & the Scaredy Cats, putting two EPs up on Bandcamp.

    In the midst of all that touring and creating, they wrote the songs for their new album, Off to the Races. Pouring energy into their personal projects has served them well—they've grown as musicians and strike a balance leaning into both their radio-friendly pop hooks and prog rock-inspired roots. While previous albums have been largely led by Thornewill's piano brilliance, Off to the Races features several tracks where Siegel and his guitar stylings take the lead, with riffs worthy of the Brian May he plays on stage every HalloQueen.

    Lyrically and sonically, Off to the Races is also possibly the most optimistic Jukebox album to date, from Thornewill's shy, meet-cute "Simple As 1, 2, 3," to Siegel's "Boring," which may start cynical but ultimately can't resist the siren call of partnership that underpins every track.

    Even with their growth, there's still familiarity that will resonate with long-time fans. Thornewill's "Time and I" is reminiscent of a stripped-down "Don't Let Me Fall Behind" from the band's third album, Safe Travels. And the opening track, "Jumpstarted," sounds—according to this reviewer—like what you would get if you combined the highlight tracks from every album into one single composition.

    The thought and passion the trio puts into their music is apparent on each of their releases and Off to the Races is no exception to that.

    Jukebox the Ghost return to Philadelphia next Tuesday, April 10th at Union Transfer.
    Review by Bek Henson

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