Being confined on a plane for 17 hours seems like a fine time to write about this new album I’ve been listening to lately. It’s by Radio Company, a musical collaboration between Jensen Ackles and Steve Carlson. Yes, THAT Jensen Ackles. (I do so love when I can write about Supernatural stuff on my rock god blog… It gives me such nerdy satisfaction and joy :D)
When Jensen announced on social media that he was recording an album with Steve, I was super excited. I’ve watched YouTube clips of Jensen singing with Louden Swain at conventions over the years and finally in person this past August, and he’s reallllllly good. (What can this cast NOT do!?). I’ve only heard him do covers, so an album of original music was highly anticipated.
Yet also nervously anticipated. I’ve mentioned before that anxious feeling of listening to new music by musicians I adore. I want them to do well, I want everyone to love them like I do. I want to love what they do. But what if I don’t like it?? What if it is awesome but doesn’t do well??? New music is Schrodinger’s cat, I both love and fear it until I open the box.
Then when Radio Company posted a snippet of one of their songs, Cannonball, I was unsure if the album was going to be my kind of music. They sounded great. Amazing even, but the genre, not my usual. So I became a bit reluctant to listen to the album: What if I don’t like it!? I really really don’t want to not love it!
Schrodinger’s Cat… Love and fear. In the end, all I know how to do is support my musicians and love them unconditionally. Snippets are not complete depictions of albums anyways. They are like reading a phrase and asking if you love the book. Like seeing a star and thinking you know the sky… A taste of an almond in a bowl of muesli…
So, just open the box. You’ll never know if the cat is dead or alive unless you open the box.
So I listened.
And I loved.
The first song on the album is Cannonball. It begins with the strum of guitar, slow, profound, emotional… It reminds me of U2’s Running to Stand Still –so I’m thinking “hmmm, this has potential that I didn’t know from the snippet.” The next notes, harder. And then some sort of classic rock, jazzy, countryish, lousiana-y, blues-y, I-don’t-know-what-box-to-put-this-in influences, which is good because I don’t like boxes anyways.
There seems to be this trend in albums to open big – first song gets all the gusto, start with a bang, and that’s this song. It comes in like a cannonball, Jensen and Steve give powerhouse performances. It’s thrilling to hear for that reason alone.
Let Me Be is similar in style – big sound, heavy, loud, big band rock.
And just when I thought this must be the style of the album, the third song, Bound, switches things up – still bluesy, still on the classic side of rock, but way less going on – this one is about the song: the lyrics, the voice and that stuttering of the guitar.
Sounds of Someday, the first single, and my favorite, though there are other strong contenders. It opens reminiscent of Led Zepplin and then of The Smiths’ Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me (“no hope no harm, just another false alarm”). But it is all its own and it is beautiful.
This song is epic, sweeping. Powerful, not through loudness, but through simplicity and soothing, melancholy melodies. Vocals: strong and emotive – that last note: clear, gorgeous. This is Jensen at his finest. (This song, by the way, was played in episode 15:04 of Supernatural).
Off My Mind follows next and is also stunning in its simplicity and melodies. There’s a stellar guitar solo in here, but its real strength is Steven’s voice and just the beauty of the verse – How do I get you off of my mind.
Drowning offers a long, emotional intro, and then moves into Jensen’s heavy vocals. Choir, violins, guitar solo, and the repetition of the lyric epitomizing the struggle to keep above the metaphoric water: keep from drowning, keep from drowning).
When I’m Down and Livin In You pick up the tempo to that jazzy rockiness of the opening songs. As much as I love Sounds, Off My Mind and Drowning, the lyrics of When I’m Down are my favourite on the album. The idea of needing that someone who is your support when you are down.
The album ends on the softer side with All Our Own and Dume. Both lovely. Dume, in particular, is slow, sensual. A gentle lullaby to close out Vol. 1.
So I listened.
And I loved.
Schrodinger’s cat is alive… The album is a beautiful collection of songs. It is eclectic in all these influences. It feels very much like an homage to music, a celebration of genres. And if this is Volume 1, I can’t wait for #2, 3 and all the rest!
Available on vinyl or on Spotify, Apple, and more.