Sunday, November 12, 2017

Black Note Graffiti - Volume II: Without Nothing I'm You (2017)

Written by Bradley Johnson, posted by blog admin

Ann Arbor’s Black Note Graffiti’s second full length album, Volume II: Without Nothing I’m You, strengthens their standing as one of the fast rising stars on the indie rock scene and solidifies their reputations as not just energetic riffers, but savvy and thoughtful songwriters increasingly expert at pouring vintage wine into shiny, pristine new bottles. The eleven songs on this effort showcase the vocal talents of Ricardo Ortiz and, while the band has since added fifth member vocalist Gabrielle Bryant, he’s more than capable of conveying the emotional and musical depth of these compositions without sacrificing any of their inherent entertainment value. The band matches his conviction every step of the way – the rhythm section of bassist Adam Nine and drummer Kurt Keller play an enormous role in the success of this collection while Ortiz effectively teams with guitarist Kris Keller to provide Volume 2: Without Nothing I’m You all the music fireworks it requires to be memorable.

“No Love Lost” announces itself remarkably well for an opener. This is Black Note Graffiti in full hard rock/metal flight, but there’s never a sense with this band of them going for the easy bash-thud mentality of similar acts. There’s tremendous dynamics in what they do and the good taste to vary those elements at the right times. “Such Is Art” continues the hard rock and metal poses but, unlike many acts of their ilk circa 2017, Black Note Graffiti nail those moves credibly and never strain listener’s attention. Ortiz does an exemplary job of getting over the material, but it’s critical that he has superb material to work with, like it is with most singers, and the band’s songwriting skills never let him down in this department. Kurt Keller’s drumming is the marquee element in “False Start” and he guides the other three musicians through the song’s hairpin shifts in tempo without ever sacrificing the beat. Many of the numbers on Volume 2 seem ideally tailored to come to life on stage moreso than their studio counterparts and this song is no exception. It’s one of the sleeper gems, perhaps, on Volume 2 and an excellent representation of the band’s capabilities.

“Shadows”, however, shows more. The opening of the song is quite unlike anything else on Volume 2 and shows their skill at varying their typical hard rock, guitar heavy approach in favor of something more suggestive and subtle. The lyrical content is, like much of it on the album, decidedly less than cheerful, but never in a purple, overwrought way common to less talented or mature songwriters. “Relapse” begins with the guitar and bass in a tight, intensely dramatic dance before the song kicks off in full and it rates as one of the more emphatic and possibly personal numbers on the release. Anyone who is a fan of guitar heavy music will like this album, young or old, and Black Note Graffiti presents themselves in a thoroughly modern fashion while still locking in on all the fundamentals that makes music like this work. Volume II: Without Nothing I’m You is one of 2017’s best rock releases.

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