In a time when it seems that the shit couldn't hit the fan harder, bills are piling up, and there doesn't seem to be a light at the end of tunnel, it is always nice to find an album that just plain makes you feel good and forget what ails you at that particular moment. In 2009, that album for me was IV, the newest installment from Los Angeles' Aggrolites, released on Tim Armstong's Hellcat Records. This album is a great way to unwind after a stressful day, perfect for a road trip, and just the thing to get the party started or keep it going 'til late in the evening.
IV finds the Aggrolites and their unique blend of upbeat, West coast reggae in the strongest incarnation yet, with even more catchy hooks and songs that keep you moving both inside and out. The Aggrolites themselves dub this music as "dirty reggae", fusing the grit of soul and funk music into the more traditional ska sounds of the early 1960's. As with their previous records, this new album has gained them a legion of new fans from across the board, ranging from enthusiasts of throwback R&B to the punk rock community, as folks get more familiar with the band itself and the music that they have to offer. Musically, the Aggrolites have achieved a tight sound in which each instrument adds just enough to make the sound exactly what it needs to be and in all the right places. The rhythm section has got one of the strongest "one drop" feels to date, keeping things moving at the perfect pace throughout the entire album with strong downbeats and a feeling that is sure to keep the dance floors packed. The guitar work relies heavily on the traditional up/offbeat feel of ska and reggae music, adding tasteful flourishes and solos when the time is right. Vocally, Jesse Wagner could just as easily front a vintage soul outfit, with strong pipes that can bring the dirt and howls at the drop of a hat in just the right places. Last but certainly not least, is keys man Roger Rivas, on Hammond organ and piano, who can melt the hearts with one strong chord blasting out of his Leslie speaker cabinet bringing even more of the soul element into the mix. Highlights include the celebratory, upbeat tracks including "Firecracker", the soulful love songs "By Her Side" and "Precious and Few", and my personal favorite, "Brother Jacob" with phenomenal harmonies from all sides bringing down the house in this more traditional sounding piece.
Feel good and forget your troubles. This album will most definitely help. -Andrew Bryant