May 8, 2017 Fastball – Step Into Light (Album Review)
The music world surely knows that an immense amount of high quality music comes out of Austin, Texas, and homegrown Fastball is a prime example of the caliber of musicianship that breeds within the city limits. Local town heros, collectively, Tony Scalzo (piano, bass, guitar,vocals), Miles Zuniga (guitar, vocals), and Joey Sheffield (drums) have been creating some of the best Alternative Rock and Powerpop of the last twenty years. Riding a wave of creativity since their 1996 debut album Make Your Momma Proud through 2009’s Little White Lies, Fastball has been satisfying the ears of listeners all around the world with their infectious, melodic hooks and genuine great song writing abilities.
Most famous for their 1998 hit “The Way,” from their breakthrough album All the Pain Money Can Buy, the boys have been cranking out tunes of musical genius with other hits including 2000’s “You’re an Ocean” to 2009’s “All I Was Looking For Was You.” Although, beyond the radio hits, diving just a little bit beneath the surface, many listeners will certainly be delighted with what they find. In fact, one auditory gem after another can easily be found throughout Fastball’s entire catalogue, and with the band’s upcoming release of Step Into Light, there should not be an exception to the rule.
Marking their first studio album since the aforementioned Little White Lies, Step Into Light is set for release on May 19, 2017 via the band’s own label 33 1/3 Records. A collective effort, recorded by the band along with their friend Chris “Frenchie” Smith (Slayer, Meat Puppets), after listening to their collection of new songs, many longtime fans will agree that when getting the trio of Fastball in the same room together, something special happens. That in mind, Step Into Light is a mixed bag of musical treats that range from slower acoustic ballads, to rockers, all the way to the Alternative Pop Rock grooves that listeners have come to love.
Opening up with “We’re On Our Way” comes beautifully written rocker sung by Zuniga. Filled with a catchy guitar riff and a pounding rhythm section, the track proudly sets the tone for an album filled with texture and diversity. Then there is “Best Friend” with Scalzo on vocals and it is filled with the singer’s innate ability to create a melody that gets stuck in the listener’s head for days. The track is lyrically self-explanatory and it is a catchy little number about the endless possibilities of being someone’s best friend.
From here, the album has a few softer songs including “Behind the Sun,” a beautifully sung, melancholy piece sung by Zuniga. More proof of the broad talents of the entire band, Zuniga’s voice is haunting as he softly sings, “No one knows me, no one knows what I’ve done, I’ve been hiding, behind the sun.” With age, Zungia’s voice has become very soothing as well as easy on the ears, thus making this a standout track on the album.
Moving forward, Fastball in no way lets their followers down with the perfect combination of melody, vocals, and harmony on the single “I Will Never Let You Down.” A soft Pop Rock tune about not letting the love of your life down, many would agree that this is one of the most ‘Fastball’ sounding songs on the album. Extremely catchy, it will be stuck in the heads of many for a long time to come. Speaking of catchy, there is no shorting of just that with other tracks including “Love Comes in Waves,” title-cut “Step Into Light,” and “Just Another Dream.” Some of the many bold moments on the album, they all showcase both Zuniga and Scalzo’s ability to craft not only great Rock-n-roll songs, but the ability to craft ones that perfectly complement one another.
Furthermore, “Secret Agent Love” is another piece of gold-filled with a glimmering catchy guitar riff while Scalzo talks about secretly falling in love. Like “Behind the Sun,” “Secret Agent Love” is an absolute standout. Then rounding out the twelve tracks, “Frenchy And The Punk” is a wonderful melodic piece with Zuniga back on vocals. Very reminiscent of a serenade sing-song that starts off with a beautiful guitar riff, it turns into an extremely enjoyable song that will transport listeners back to a time long ago sitting on their grandparents floor spinning music on a turntable.
Eight years between albums is a long time, but Step Into Light is an album well worth it. Filled with impeccable musicianship, it is a truly diverse collection of songs that range from acoustic ballad to hard driven Rock. Scheduled to hit the road with Everclear days prior to the album’s release, it will be exciting to see Fastball show off the shiny new music. In enough words, Step Into Light is not only a continuation of Fastball’s creative genius, it also is a moment in time that cements their legacy. That is why CrypticRock gives Step Into The Light 5 out of 5 stars.