Thursday, January 18, 2018

Baltimore Musician, Multi-instrumentalist & Music Writer Al Shipley Returns with Synth-Pop-laden Western Blot EP Too 30 (self-released)

Al Shipley is a Baltimore area musician and multi-instrumentalist, as well as a well-respected music writer, who, over the years, has written for Rolling Stone, The FADER, Stereogum, SPIN, Complex, and Pitchfork, just to name a few. Shipley has been sporadically playing shows and self-releasing music as Western Blot for about five years now; his releases include "Button Masher" b​/​w "Child of Divorce," "The Power Let Me Down," and "Sore Winners," all of which ended up re-appearing on Western Blot's 2016 debut full-length, Muscle Memory. Prior to forming Western Blot, Al Shipley played drums in a variety of Baltimore bands and says he simply started Western Blot "as an outlet for writing songs with synths." His records generally, showcase the vocal talents of Baltimore's finest frontmen and women; for example, Western Blot's latest release, Too 30 EP features 20ooo's Lizzy Greif on opener "Still Catch Myself" and Scott Siskind of Vinny Vegas on "Limited Edition." I have to admit, Too 30 EP is my first exposure to both Western Blot and Al Shipley and man, is it an interesting, genre-spanning 11-minute listen! Western Blot's Too 30 EP was recorded at Baltimore-based Mobtown Studios last year, where it was recorded, mixed, and produced by Mat Leffler-Schulman and engineered by Rob Liberati.

Lizzy Greif-led "Still Catch Myself" is a somber, slow-building listen that reminds me of fellow Baltimorean Flock of Dimes (Jenn Wasner,) as well as Yeah Yeah Yeahs' 2004 single, "Maps." Al Shipley takes the lead on title track, "Too 30," is a synth-laden jam about coming to grips with being in your 30's. It's instantly evocative of early 2000's Dance/Pop-Punk such as LCD Soundsystem, Franz Ferdinand, The Faint, and The Bravery. Scott Siskind-helmed "Limited Edition" features a muttled guitar riff/drum stomp reminiscent of Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Dani California" and synth squalls in the vein of Joy Division/New Order and Depeche Mode. EP closer "Ill Afford" steps into Prog-Rock territory, while keeping one foot firmly planted in Synth-Pop. Al Shipley's characteristically frenzied vocal delivery is evocative of Talking Heads' frontman David Byrne, Gary Numan, and again, LCD Soundstystem founder James Murphy. It has an underlying tone reminiscent of Noise-Rock darlings Lightning Bolt mixed with a layer of steel drums, which makes for quite the interesting, inventive listen. Western Blot's proper Muscle Memory follow-up will also feature Too 30 EP closer "Ill Afford." Western Blot's Too 30 EP is currently available to stream or download on their Bandcamp, along with the entirety of their aforementioned discography.

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