It’s been almost a year since the first time I witnessed Molehill live on stage. I’ve seen them a couple times since then, and I always walk away impressed. I say quite often that if you want to hear some arena rock, but don’t want to pay the ridiculous price that comes along with that style, simply find out where Molehill is playing and thank me later.
And while their shows are generally amazing, I’m happy to report that their first full-length album (with current members) of equal awsomeness will be exploding into record stores in just a couple of weeks. Until this point, the only way you could have Molehill appease your ears was via their fantastic Audiotree session from last year. If you enjoyed that, you won’t be disappointed with Equinox, which takes three songs from that session and adds ten originals.
If you’ve read my reviews of Molehill’s shows in the past, you’ll remember that I often compare them to the band Muse. While I’ll never waiver from that comparison based on what I’ve heard so far from them, I will admit that they are much more than that. They blend their love of progressive rock and blues together so seamlessly that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.
Keeping those two genres together requires a lot of talent, and Molehill has it in spades. Frontman and lead guitarist Pete Manhart finds as much influence in Buddy Guy as he does Adam Jones, and his vocal range is as good as anyone out there. Devin Staples has always impressed me at live shows, but on Equinox he’s given time to create, and he shows off a talent few drummers have perfected: nuance.
Then you have the two guys who get very little credit, but deserve as much as anyone else, Trevor Jones on bass and Greg Van Zuiden who plays a huge role in the band on keys and vocals. The one thing that stood out to me most about the new record is how effectively the band uses keyboards to drive much of the narrative. Some bands would have maybe tipped the balance a bit too far and ended up sounding like Keane, but Molehill has struck it just right.
Another thing that stood out was the quality of the songwriting and arrangement of the instruments. Equinox proves that Molehill are about more than just flashy guitars. On songs like “February” and “Stronger Now” the lyrics show a real vulnerability absent from most bands of this ilk. “Stronger Now” is one of the songs that originally appeared on the Audiotree session (called UNTITLED), and probably my favorite Molehill song. It’s grounded so harshly in truth that it’s almost heartbreaking to listen to, and yet I find myself hitting repeat over and over again.
Equinox has a lot of great songs to offer, and one thing I think they definitely made the right call on is the inclusion of three instrumental interludes. There’s one toward the beginning and one to close, but the one in the middle that leads into “I’m Okay” is absolutely spot on. The transition is one of my favorite parts of the record.
We’re still a few weeks out from release, and I don’t want to give too much away. I found out back in the fall that the band was recording and I tried to keep tabs as much as I could on what was transpiring. Based on what I was hearing and seeing, my expectations were pretty high. High enough that I added Molehill into my bands to watch in 2012. Needless to say, they’ve exceeded what I thought they were capable of, and delivered an album that I think almost anyone would enjoy.
Chicago gets a little head start, with the album dropping here on March 3rd. The rest of the world gets it March 6th, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. The band has a couple shows lined up in Pennsylvania in the coming weeks, and then the big record release show will be March 3rd. This show will definitely sell out, so if you’re planning on coming, get your tickets now.