From the retro ‘60s psychedelic album art to their wall of sound performances, listening to Major Games’ self-titled album feels like visiting a sonic circus. Released in the spring of this year, the first full-length album of the Lawrence-based band arrives 4 years after their 2011 EP (EP1, which was just re-released on cassette by This Ain’t Heaven Recording Concern), and each one of the eight new tracks is indisputably worth the wait. Those who have been enjoying their earlier release will not be disappointed—in fact, any fan of noise, shoegaze, or psychedelic will be excited to hear what Major Games has been up to, as will those interested in an introduction to the genre. Their previous five-track EP laid the foundation for Major Games’ seemingly effortless song construction and gritty sound. This new, self-titled album harnesses everything great about those songs and amplifies it into one cohesive Major Games experience: a larger-than-life rollercoaster of noise.
Major Games is made up of Jeremy Sidener on bass and vocals, Doug McKinney on guitar and vocals, and Steve Squire on drums. What immediately stands out on the album is the band’s ability to make a wall of noise sound elegant and cohesive—if you have any doubt, check out the first 50 seconds of “BDBDBD.” Although a solid addition to your road trip playlist, this music is made for hitting play, leaning back, closing your eyes, and soaking up the sound. Sidener’s vocals soar through each track, weaving in and out between layers of instrumental sound with impressive control and range. Lyrically, Major Games comes across introspective, however lyrics take a backseat to the sheer power of the instruments themselves. “Other Location” makes an impact alternating between lightly echoing guitar, and harder, droning noise, creating an unpredictable and layered quality that saturates through the whole album. Other favorite tracks include “Risk,” which will most likely get a crowd dancing, and “Burner,” featuring an unrelenting rolling bass and elaborate guitar work.
Despite its brilliant raw sound, the entire album manages to maintain a quality of precision and clarity. Producer Jim Vollentine, who recorded the album with the band at Black Lodge Recording Studio in Eudora, KS, deserves credit for capturing the force of Major Games' arrangements. Vollentine’s career includes production and technical work with bands like Spoon and White Rabbits. This album demonstrates serious confidence in their craft and inspired musicianship with no hesitations about breaking the mold. Major Games doesn’t sound like the band is coasting or playing it safe. Their album is a major achievement.
Mary Kennedy is a lifelong Bostonian learning her way around Kansas City. She can often be found in an art museum, checking out local music, or taking a nap.
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