Leaving Sangster EP Review

So Ronatron comes up to me in a bar and says…oh wait. This isn’t a joke. It’s an EP review. Get serious man! Okay, Ron comes up to me at work the other week and says “Hey do you want to review this band who’s offering to send their EP out from Ontario? They’re called Leaving Sangster and they’re from Hamilton.”

“Steeltown?!” I says to Ron “You bet your ass I’ll review a band from Steeltown!” And that goes for any of you aspiring rockers from Hamilton. I will review your band because I’m from Southern Ontario and there’s a special place in my heart for you crazy kids and your wacky dreams. So for this review I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to write it as I listen to it for the first time, headphones on head and fingers on keys. Ready? Let’s go!

Track One: Half of Me
Lead singer Justin Sawicki has a very decent voice and the guitar intro has great swing. Similar to the groove set up by fellow Canadian band soulDecision’s Faded without any of the latter’s boy-band goofiness. Jangly and fun, although considerably darker in tone. Leaving Sangster cite The Tragically Hip as one of their main influences, and I must say that this is a much more impressive debut than the Hip had, not to mention that whoever is singing back-up (Sawicki himself?) already has a better voice than Gord Sinclair after years of practice. The song features a nice bridge too. The songwriting is solid and there’s no filler despite this being a longer song at 4:36. An excellent intro to the EP, Half of Me will be a welcome addition to the songs that I’ll be playing in the car on the road trip that I’m taking this weekend.

Track Two: 20 Something
Righteous kick drum to lead this one off. The guitar work reminds me of early The Cure riffs. Again, Sawicki’s singing is powerful without being over the top. Similar to what the Gin Blossoms used to get up to back in the 90’s, this song would fit in perfectly on a show like The OC, although lyrics like “fuck or be fucked, pay me something for my time” would probably require a bit of editing. I really like the way the band works together. There are a lot of veteran groups whose full-length albums lack this level of sound quality. The mixing is excellent and you can tell that the band really put a tremendous amount of effort into this track. All parts compliment each other.

Track Three: Tidal Waves
Another solid track! After the first two I was kind of expecting a bit of a dud at this point, but I was totally wrong. This song is a little rockier than the last two. I also can’t help but notice that drummer Josh Harris is really very good. If there’s one thing you can’t fake in the studio (especially on your first EP) it’s drumming talent. No amount of post-production will cover it up if your drummer can’t keep time or frequently screws up. Harris is on the money and the track sounds great as a result. I usually like my music a little on the raw side, so the fact that you can hear the hum of the guitar strings vibrating is very cool.

Track Four: Impermanence
I really dig Andrew Barbisan’s ultra-clean guitar and the stop-start rhythm of Impermanence in general. Likewise, JP Shalala on bass really locks the rhythm section down. I should have mentioned something about these two earlier, considering their consistency throughout the EP, but that’s what you get in a live review I guess. Again, another example of how tight this band sounds in the studio. Like Ron mentioned in his last review, it’s uncommon for bands to sound this professional in their first studio outing. Leaving Sangster’s first EP is really quite an anomaly and I’m glad to add it to my record collection.