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The Maladies of Adam Stokes – City of Trees – album review

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The Maladies Of Adam Stokes - City Of Trees

The Maladies Of Adam Stokes – City Of Trees

TOTAL SCORE: 8.75/10

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Released: October 23, 2012
Produced & Engineered by Dave MacKenzie at Beyond The Beat Studios
Mixed by Denis Tougas
Edited by Laura Titchner
Mastered by Noah Mintz
Artwork by Tom Twolan

Established in 2009 by former band mates Mikey Hill and Kohji Nagata, The Maladies of Adam Stokes has since become a six-piece folk-rock band that brings to the table a quality of sound that would make fellow Canadians proud.

Their first full-length album, City of Trees, is a well-rounded collection of songs that are mature, full of allegory, perfectly placed guitar riffs, raspy yet clear vocals, and a plethora of instruments that make each song multi-faceted. Nothing was done wrong in making this album.

The album feels a bit book-ended due to having easy-paced, acoustic tracks at the beginning and the end. However, this helps to build up a slow crescendo of sound, starting with Type You Forget. The intensity just keeps increasing as each track elapses, until we’re brought back down to earth with Kingdom Come.

With the third and fourth tracks, The Maladies were able sneak in a combo of songs that move effortlessly from one to the other, yet act as a dualistic “ying and yang” of sorts. Hollow Love portrays a sound that is slightly dark yet intriguing, with the opening of the song featuring a melancholic fiddle and lyrics such as “You may be my blood and you might have made my bones, but you ain’t no love”. My ears couldn’t help but prick up when I first heard this track because of two distinct sounds that I was able to extract. What first caught my attention was a guitar riff very reminiscent of one found in Neil Young’s Like a Hurricane. The second was a baseline that sounded very much like one in Modest Mouse’s The Cold Part. I’m not sure if this was intended by the band, but this odd mix of influences somehow works in this song. Hollow Love then shares its ending with the beginning of Oceans, which is possibly my favourite song on the album. Oceans is the more upbeat partner in this duo. I absolutely love the trumpet on this track and the effect used for the guitar. The song just carries itself.

Other songs of note are title track City of Trees with its perfect harmonies and backing piano; When the World Burst to Flames, with guitars that again, remind me of old Neil Young; and Fall of the Moor that has a unique, tinny sounding piano that makes you feel like you’re listening to an old set of keys from the Depression Era (the harmonica on this song is also amazing).

Apparently both the drummer and bassist have a lack of experience when it comes to their instruments, although you would never know they were novices at their trade upon hearing the music. Drummer née sound engineer, Ted Turner, picked up the drums for The Maladies; likewise, bassist Brett Harris didn’t play until he joined the band. The drums add a perfect kick to each song, with a mixture of folk beats, drum rolls and snare; whereas the bass line is seamless, sometimes undetectable, lying just below the surface of each song.

Add to the mix “jack of all trades” Kohji with his guitar, lap steel, glockenspiel and trumpet; the delicate piano and fiddle playing of Emily Anderson; Josh Awerbuck and his guitar that supports each song; and Mikey’s voice, which has a quality of tone that hooks you, and you have yourself not only a great album that can be played until it’s worn out, but also an incredibly talented band that I’d bet on lasting the long run.

City of Trees is an album that for sure should create some buzz for these guys prior to their show during Canadian Music Week. And as of the evening of March 4, they were named one of the top five bands in Toronto contending for CBC Radio’s Searchlight: Here & Now contest, looking for the best new musical artist in Canada.

 

Recommended Track: Track 4: Oceans -  Trumpet such a nice touch,   blurred guitar, bass line carries throughout, honestly, a song that needs to   be on the radio 10

The Good — The music is infused with a folk feel thanks to acoustic guitar, banjo, trumpet and harmonica, but The Maladies are also able to keep it bluesy and rock-based with the electric guitar solos and sometimes grungy guitar riffs.

The Bad — Call me biased, but I can’t detect anything “bad” about this album

The Ugly — “Ugly” and “The Maladies of Adam Stokes” is an oxymoron that doesn’t belong in the same sentence.

THE SCENE