We are pleased to welcome Amy Shaw to our writing team today. She joins us with her inaugural review of Senators, by Senators.
When Joe McCarthy croons “in the back of the bar I found a guitar / And a bottle of rye,” we want to croon and drink right along with him. Senators’ self-titled first LP is, above all, an accessible album; guided by a bluesy spirit, Senators invites our commiseration—or perhaps communion—in its more melancholic moments, and makes us want to nod our heads in its more upbeat moments. McCarthy’s vocal performance is forward and confident throughout, which is crucial for the blues aesthetic he is working under: he is ragged and emotive, but none of it seems forced.
Senators also draw obvious influence from classic rock moguls like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. “When the Sacred Gin Mill Closed” sounds like it could’ve been a Neil Young b-side with its gentle harmonica fluttering in front of crunchy guitars. However, this is not a throwback band; Senators retains a charmingly modern indie sound that will appeal to classic rock enthusiasts and indie listeners alike. Their closest contemporary comparison is Dr. Dog, a band that was reared on classic rock but still raised in the 90s. In songs like “Apollo,” McCarthy jumps ahead a few decades and channels a hint of Adam Duritz. There is a diverse blend of influences happening here that keeps the music fresh.
“Oh Mercy,” a straight rock ballad, is one of the album’s strongest tracks. Abhay Singh’s back-up vocals are gospel-like behind McCarthy, who sounds wonderfully raspy and expressive. The band shows a satisfying amount of restraint here until the dynamic gets big, and then fades out not too much longer, not overdoing itself. “I’ll Go to the Shore” is another noteworthy track, combining a signature do-wop drum beat and delicious falsetto harmonies, Beach Boys style.
Senators, though fairly new, have already found a sound with this album, which is an impressive feat: strong vocals, bluesy progressions, distorted guitars. In future recordings, their challenge will be to draw a wider range of influences into their guitar sound specifically. I’d love to hear a little more surf guitar or even a clean tone from these guys to diversify a bit. Overall, though, Senators is a strong LP, and I’ll always cheer for a band who isn’t afraid of a little rock n’ roll.