The Shilohs’ self-titled sophomore release debuts May 13 as a followup to last year’s well-received “So Wild” on Light Organ Records. Demonstrating a more evolved sound and a progression in songwriting, they are carving out a jangle-psych niche for themselves in the current crop of neo-garage bands. While adhering to the sounds of late ’60s to early ’70s, their echoing vocals, circular choruses and warm, rich tones come together to define their own dreamy little corner of rock.
The album opens with “Student of Nature”, a shimmering track that has as its sonic blueprint early Kinks, a touch of the lyrical wit of Malkmus, as well as some Stones and Dylan in the mix. While definitely borrowing from the past, The Shilohs do have unique moments as songwriters; their sound is well-crafted and sonically diverse. Students of rock Johnny Payne (vocals, guitar), Mike Komaszczuk (vocals, guitar), Daniel Colussi (vocals, bass) and Ben Frey (drums) clearly major in history, chemistry, and instinct. Riffs and vocal unisons wind themselves around tight rhythms and driving bass lines, with dynamics that rise from verse to chorus in a sing-a-long summertime classic. Intertwining guitars dominate and define The Shilohs’ sound, adding to the Davies-influenced vocals, round tones and steady beats.
The Shilohs delve deep into their soft side with the endearing, more emotional “Sisters of Blue”; reverb-rich guitars and pared-down bass lines flesh out “Strange Connections” which moves from clean to fuzz-toned, from rhythmically precise to loud and jagged. “Palm Readers” is more sophisticated, exploring rhythmic changes and harmonies, yet remaining within the psych-pop territory that is their standard range. “Bless Those Boys” is slow and contemplative, with delicate sweeping guitar voices, piano and string flourishes adding to the harmonies.
The album merges musical styles ranging from from tight to expressive, from touches of country rock to garage-pop. “Folks On Trains” rides the rails on straight ahead rhythms and hooks while “Down At The Bottom Of Bottomland” is more driving, vocally reminiscent of early Lou Reed. Last track “Days of Wines” starts with swirling noise that feel like a soundtrack for a summer of train-hopping, reminiscent of an innocence that never was. It rumbles along the twin steel tracks of bass and drum, with echoes of tambourine, strings and dusky summer sunsets.
Overall, the production is polished and cohesive, and if not blazing new ground. The Shilohs owe a debt to the psychedelia of the past yet manage to find their own unique take on contemporary psych-pop: a catchy, fun ride of listenable hooks and harmonies.