New Boss thrills and chills on fresh album “Third Sister”
Charlottesville alternative power pop band New Boss is debuting their third studio album, appropriately titled “Third Sister”, at The Southern this Saturday, June 3rd. The high rock vision springs from guitarist Thomas Dean, executed with the talents of drummer Parker Smith, bassist Scott Ritchie, guitarist/vocalist Jordan Perry, vocalist Devon Sproule, and UVA Media Studies Professor Nick Rubin, who plays the keys.
New Boss has come a long way since its inception, moving away from the dramatic blues rock of Twee Boogie vol. 1 and 2, and towards catchier melodies and harder edges. Though Third Sister doesn’t seem to follow a larger narrative arc, each track succeeds at telling its own story, with distinctly rich instrumentation to create powerful emotional soundscapes. Dean and company take an idea and run with it, using their deep repertoire to orchestrate their originals.
Third Sister marks the addition of vocalist Devon Sproule, whom offers dexterity in her performance, providing backing vocals and taking the lead on diverse tracks, from the nostalgic, camp-inspired ‘Wildlife’ to the wavy, spacey ‘Dreams’. The transitions between lead vocalists Perry and Sproule are surprisingly seamless throughout the album. Rubin even slides in and takes lead on rock jamboree ‘Party Trick’. The chemistry among collaborators makes for a lucid whirlwind of a journey.
The mystical intro primes the theme for the titular track, ‘Third Sister’. Guitars triumphantly make way for the Perry’s melodious metaphysics, while Ritchie’s driving bass inaugurates an emotional shift, crestfallen to uproarious. The cymbal pulse rouses into precarious territory. Gruff synths fill the space as heterophonic guitars intermingle with stereophonic concordance.
Following is ‘Strange Angles’, a youthful anthem with calypso roots. Guitars shimmy around Copacabana style as Sproule and Perry fuse on the microphone, the glamorous duo singing in contrasting crescendos to the guitars. ‘Dreams’ then shifts the landscape to the garage as Smith’s kick-heavy drums provide the beat for Sproules’ ethereal love memorandum.
In what would otherwise sound like a feel-good beachjam, ‘Pretty Haunted’ features dreary distortions of Perry’s vocals and Dean’s electric guitar that evoke a melancholia that could accompany you on a “chilly seaside” or when your suffering on “your birthday” or from “a toothache”. The sonic corruption is emphasized by a grumbling bass, which terrifies me of what may lay waiting just around the bend.
For a brief moment, I’m hypnotized by promising incantation to “let them in”. The clouds begin to part and a ray of light shines around my eardrums, if only momentarily, before the wearisome, lackluster chorus reminds me once more of my entailing demons. ‘Pretty Haunted’ would certainly be an excellent addition to any Scooby-Doo themed pregame.
After we’re led through the tropical, windswept, surfer-boogaloo of ‘Back to the Beach’, we’re launched into space madness on ‘The Hill’. “I came in from the heat/ I thought I was rehearsing for my death” oozes out from Perry. Digital beep-boops and layers of vocoder synth provide independent static and dynamic tensions, filling the space between the trickling verse and a plainsailing down-up stroke strumming pattern.
The narratives don’t ignore the the human psyche either. The mind-bending shredder that is of ‘Mirror Mirror’ encourages one to ask their self what they really find important. ‘Party Trick’ tells a story of perpetuating the past, over 60s synth keys and Ritchie’s rollicking bass. ‘Fools’ is a gooey, hooting homily to the simple perceptions of love. The solemn, streetlit ‘Gray’ slows it down to empathize with the tragic death of Black American Freddie Gray, a victim of stereotyping and police brutality. Perry’s elegy doesn’t forget how we might act the same way, if only for our circumstances.
The visceral ride through time and space is both arduous and rewarding. The punch and bump of Smith’s drums on ‘Jeeps’ inspire a 90s nostalgia, until Perry’s tremulous tenor sparks a fresh exploration into the perilous landscape. Dean thrashes and soars on guitar as if riding through sections of thick brush and green clearings in the jungle. It’s the penultimate slow dance of ‘Wildlife’ that sweeps you out of tangled vines and into swaying willows. The sensations of the woods are the perfect place to share with a loved one; Sproule’s wistful crooning makes me agonize at the thought of losing that unrestrained intimacy.
After a taxing, valiant journey, ‘In Other News’ sends us back into our holes to rest. Meditating wearily on the realities of society, Perry asks: “Is it worth your time?”, “Appreciate you”. Starlit instruments indicate it’s time to hit the hay… but not before the last caper. Salutary yowls and transcendental grunge rags invigorate throughout the electric lullaby before the melody cadences to rock dreamland (which is totally gnarly—see the bonus hit).
In these 15 tracks, New Boss voyages with great versatility. As performers, they are vested channels for style, breathing naturally whatever occupies their souls. The landscapes and messages they create brim with humanity; they’re founded in the real world and its people. And the combinations of sounds they create are cool, often enchanting with riotous moments interspersed; songs you could play just about anywhere. With their extensive library of sounds, I can see New Boss doing great things with larger narrative arcs in future installments. Though Perry may be departing from the group, the creative minds of Dean and cohorts pulse excitedly. Abound with fresh excitement, New Boss is a bonafide source for innovation and good vibes.
Be sure to catch New Boss live for the record release show at The Southern on June 3rd.
In the meantime, you can stream Third Sister online here.
AJ BAKHTARI is a second year who has a passion for cliffhangers.