For a good album to elevate to great, especially for local or undiscovered talent, finding a unique sound while embracing familiar influences becomes important. Some (Lenny Kravitz, Oasis) took that idea to a near-breaking point, while others don’t go far enough, and we are left with music that doesn’t find it’s way into our heart and guts.
Lafayette’s Mike Reeb does a fine job of blending his influences and own sound on his new album Breaking. A record filled with images of melancholy and heartbreak, Reeb casts his bright pop and rock music into the mix to keep it engaging.
On the second full length album for the Chicago native – and first since 2006’s acoustic “Without the City Lights” – Reeb develops a sound that mixes Beatles, power-pop and Wilco into the first half of the ten-song record, creating a sturdy opening song sequence.
The title cut is the best of the bunch, echoing the new wave and rock of Marshall Crenshaw, dropping in the killer line “I don’t want to fight, but where were you last night?”. He closes the song with wordless moans that build on the pain he sings about, before snapping on a Beatles-esque ending.
The album opening “Love Won’t Hold You Down” carries a Will Hoge and David Gray pop/rock recipe to success, while “Like A Wing” goes old school, with songwriting and sound reminiscent of the legendary Jimmy Webb.
While Reeb mixes up the influences on the first part of the record, I kept hearing Neil Young come through the speakers on the back portion of the album. “It’s Been a Real Hard Year” is an acoustic reminder of Young’s Harvest days, while the message and music of “What Are You Fighting For?” and “The City Would Win” pay homage, at least in part, to the grittier side of the influential Canadian.
Rebekah Osborne is a constant delight with her backup vocals, mirroring and playing against Reeb confident singing. It’s a solo record (Reeb handles nearly all the instruments) that has a band sound. Not an easy task to master.
The album closes with “You Win”, full of quiet resignation and a lone plaintive guitar, though brushing near enough to “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” in tone and sound to strike that elusive familiar-yet-original chord.
“It’s Been a Real hard Year” (LIVE)
All songs written and recorded by Mike Reeb.
Mike Reeb – Vocals, Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Drums, Bass, Wurlitzer, Tambourine
Rebekah Osborn – Vocals
Jordan Banks – Bass on “It’s True”
Ryan Snell – Wurlitzer on “The City Would Win”
Adam Ollendorff – Pedal Steel on “Like a Wing”, Electric Guitars on “I Gave You the World”