I got a surprise invitation to cover a Willy Moon show at Schubas back in February. Willy was heating up with his song “Yeah Yeah” appearing in an iPod commercial, and I kinda dug his sound so I went ahead and covered the show. The opening band was The Outfit from Chicago, and they were really good. They played songs that ranged from blues rock to jazzy r&b, and did it all very well. Some time passed and I hadn’t heard anything from The Outfit, only to find out that they’d changed their name to Ariada. Judging by the songs on their new EP, the name is the only thing that changed.
Led by LA native Lesleigh Arrattia, the band drips with earned confidence. These aren’t some kids that just decided to play together, they are all well-learned players. Arrattia takes front and center, but everyone gets their moment in the sun. When I saw them live, I was especially impressed with Brian Weinert. His guitar was making noise that seemed to be coming from all around me. Combine that with a brass section and a lead singer whose range goes from the depths of the ocean up to the heavens, and you’ve got a recipe for great things.
The first song, “Keep It Together,” reminds me a bit of Rachael Yamagata. It’s got that pop sound that you’d expect to hear on the radio, but then you get a burst of the trumpets and it takes on a new kind of feel. By the mid-point of the tune, when Al Amey’s guitar riff comes more to the front, you don’t even remember how it started. They do a good job of playing with dynamics, letting everything get quiet and then building it up again until Arriatta’s voice explodes into a hair-raising wail.
I like that “Blue & White Dress,” written by Weinert, keeps the guitar in the background. It almost comes off like a disco song, which is completely unexpected and a lot of fun. The breakdown in the middle honestly sounds a little bit like Britney Spears’ song “Toxic,” and I think we’re at a point where that’s ok. It’s a great bit of fun, and I hope Weinert gets to do more writing as the band makes more records.
My favorite of the five tracks is “Rescue Me,” the EP closer. Arrattia namechecks New Orleans often in the song, and it totally has that Bourbon Street feel. It’s the biggest, most bold, turned up to 11 piece here. Arriatta’s vocals are on the attack from the first word, and the horns provide some added urgency. Cary Deadman did all the horn arrangements on the record, and definitely earned whatever Ariada was paying. The final minute of “Rescue Me” is basically a Master’s Class in vocal fireworks and musical arrangement.
Ariada has been playing a bunch of shows lately to get the word out about the new record. If you missed them, don’t worry-you can catch them this Friday at Lincoln Square Lanes (9pm) or next Thursday, Sept 12th, at the DePaul Student Center (9:30pm). I’m sure they’ll be adding more this fall, so stay tuned to their Facebook page for any info. You can pick up the EP on Bandcamp for $5.