November 28, 2014 Jillhammer – Snagwaggle (Album Review)
Formed back in 2006, Jillhammer is an interesting three-piece Rock band out of the Atlanta, Georgia area. Formed by lead guitarist/synthesizer player Chuck Polasky, drummer Rick Motes, and bassist/e-mandolinist Will Riggs (father of The Walking Dead’s Chandler Riggs), the band released their debut album titled Boondoggle the same year of their formation, and have been building for a follow up ever since. Playing live shows and constructing a fan base, their material is catching attention among a vast age group looking for something other than the norm. Taking their time to put together their sophomoric effort, they released a twelve track album titled Snagwaggle in 2013. Produced, mixed, and mastered by Polasky himself, the record is available via CD Baby for hard copy editions and through iTunes and Google Play digitally.
Those unfamiliar with the band should take note that Jillhammer strive to be different than the mass amount of Rock bands around them. Combining a mix of Classic Rock, ’80s Alternative, Grunge, and even some Surf Rock, the band has a sound that provides a dynamic musical adventure. Opening Snagwaggle with the track “Water Line,” Jillhammer immediately make an impression with an almost gothic undertone of keyboards that create a dark moody vibe. Complimented by raspy vocals, the psychedelic guitars along with a thick bass line will remind some listeners of classic Echo & The Bunnymen. Solidifying that each and every track will be different, “Camel Toe” has more of a Classic Rock styling with groovy rhythm and a harmonized chorus that utilizes each members vocals wonderfully. Easy to see why the band chose the song as a lead single. It is certainly a catchy tune with a fun story line. On the “Stinkin Love,” a more Grunge Rock sound is exhibited with doom-like guitars similar to that of Black Sabbath. Taking the listener deep into the lyrics of love and desire, the slow tempo track also draws a strong similarity to an Alice in Chains.
Keeping the audience constantly guessing what is coming next, the Punk Rock heavy snare drum of “Submariner” kicks into a fast paced tune with heavily distorted guitars. The endearing lo-fi recording wonderfully meshes each instrument together for a Shoegaze texture that is entrancing at times. Showing they can equally produce a cleaner sounding song, “Just A Man” has straight forward classic guitar riffs and throbbing bass, along with varied, higher pitched vocals making for a soulful, yet dirty sound. The track could easily be envisioned being heard on an LP back in the 1980s and is a stand out midway through the album. Keeping the guitars crisp and melodic, “Dazy Hazy ” follows with an almost Stone Temple Pilots inflection that is warm and inviting to the listener. Ensuring that they are not following any formula, another curve ball is thrown with the Punk Rock song “My Ball.” Highlighted by a fantastic surf bass line, the track is raw and will have listeners tapping their feet. This is followed by the off-beat song “Now,” which features more full vocal harmonies.
Taking Snagwaggle in a completely different direction, “Set Me Free” is perhaps one of the best songs of the bunch with a eerie opening of keyboards, giving way to a bass-heavy flow. The track is like a soundscape into the unknown and would fit perfectly on any classic ’80s Horror film soundtrack. The fuzzy balance of timbres reaches it peak on “Secrets,” where the listener is given a rainbow of accented sounds that can only be described as dream-like. Held together by calmer, whispering vocals and a steady bass line, the song is evidence that sometimes the most interesting offerings are are saved for last. Keeping that mystical mojo flowing, the tribal drums of “Thousand Pounds of Sin,” with its ultra sharp vocals and guitars, make for the most intense song on Snagwaggle. The track could easily be a single and is certainly one of the most accessible of any of the pieces from the album. This is led into closer “Death Waltz,” which has an almost Post-Rock aura with Beatlesque vocals. While downbeat and gloomy, the song is a fine soothing end to a solid album.
Jillhammer has put a great deal of time into creating the sound of Snagwaggle. The album is not overly produced and not perfect like most Pro Tools projects now a days, and that’s what’s great about it. This is a throwback to a classic Alternative Rock album of yesteryear, with real human qualities. Anyone looking for something different than the average modern Rock band should give Jillhammer a listen. The less cohesive nature of album may throw some listeners off, but do not deter. The forty plus minute trip of Snaggwaggle is well worth it. CrypticRock gives this album 4.5 out of 5 stars.