June 11, 2015 Sheppard – Bombs Away (Album Review)
Australian Indie Pop band Sheppard came together back in 2009 when sibling founders George (lead vocals/keyboard) and Amy Sheppard (lead vocals/harmonica) were just a duo. Soon developing their sound and style, in 2011 they added Michael Butler (guitar/backing vocals), Jason Bovino (guitar/backing vocals), Emma Sheppard (bass/backing vocals), and most recently, Dean Gordon (drums) in 2013. Performing a variety of live shows and exposing themselves, the band built quite a buzz with their 2012 debut self-titled EP which did not pick up steam until almost a year after its release, reaching peak positions in Australian charts. Now spoken about internationally, the band released their debut full-length album Bombs Away in July 2014, and finally via Republic Records in North America in March of 2015. Twelve tracks in total, the domestic release stateside has been anticipated after years of word of mouth spreading the name of Sheppard like wild fire.
Opening with the lead single “Geronimo,” it is also the most thriving song on the album with George and Amy’s vocals providing an excellent dynamic that will not only get stuck in the listener’s head, but also get them to dance along. After the amazing start, Sheppard slow it down with acoustic based “Something’s Missing.” While more mellow, the beautiful crystal clear guitar tone and irresistible drums do not make it at all any less catchy and the lyrics are easy to sing along to, especially the chorus, which will leave an impression immediately. Continuing with international single “Let Me Down Easy,” the listener will probably catch themselves nodding along to the rhythm, maybe even snapping the fingers along to the beat. Complemented by a subtle mix of guitar and piano, the silky instrumentation make it another piece that will not be forgotten easily.
Expanding their sound a bit, “These People” has a building, dueling vocal, singing together with only a guitar accompanying them for the first verse, before the band sets in. Even after the track totally kicks in, it stays simple and pure, yet perfect to sway along to. Bringing the style closer to Pop again, “A Grade Playa” sees Amy begin the track with a strong attention grabbing vocal. Living up to its title, the song paints pictures of beach and ocean in the listener’s head with tingling guitars and keyboards beneath the singing, creating sunshine on a lonely island. “Smile” is another song that causes the listener not only to do what its name entails, but also sing along. With Amy taking lead vocals again, the happy overall vibe of the song is perfect for Summertime relaxation.
Keeping the dynamics balanced, “The Best Is Yet To Come” comes on as a more organic recording with an epic amount of space between the lead acoustic guitar and background textures. Solidified by George’s deep vocals that cause a sigh when listening, Amy’s supporting singing make it one of the most atmospheric tunes off Bombs Away filled with hope and beauty. Then there is “This Electric Feeling,” which is trying to find an answer, while “Find Someone” is actively going on the hunt and succeeds. The first of the two tracks has a heavy ’80s Pop influence as Amy scatters flawless vocals about. The second track begins with a lounge-like vibe before kicking into a danceable chorus before weaving in and out of the lounge sound. Uncensored and exceptionally sung by George, it is a surprising, but welcomed song within the track listing. Providing a romantic ballad, “Lingering” is speaking of someone longing for another as the vocal harmonies shine bright again. Interestingly crafted, it expresses the feelings of anyone who has be taken by another, but gone unnoticed, and hoping they will eventually turn their way. Further exploring sound with twangy guitars giving away to electronic textures, “Halfway To Hell” shows off the true vocal talents of Sheppard. Opening with a strong voice, Amy’s singing is passionate and in a more traditional way than on the other songs of Bombs Away. Closing the album, “Flying Away” picks up the speed one more time while subtle keys tinkle in the backdrop as Amy and George team up for a back and forth vocal duo before a very uplifting chorus. Overall, the cut sums up all the emotions and styles the listener experienced throughout the album.
Bombs Away creates sensational vibes with female and male vocals taking equal parts, while backing up each other or even singing together in perfect unison. The music is wandering between Pop, Synth, Modern Country, and Rock meeting Folk sensibility, making for a beautiful album filled with passion as well as joy. “Geronimo” is the only true Pop song on this album, but each song is just as amazing and worth listening to as this talented band show they know how to write unforgettable songs. It is no wonder Sheppard are the third Australian band to impact American Top 40 Radio this century, they are that good. CrypticRock gives Bombs Away 4.5 out of 5 stars.