Signs – South Shore Movement
Assuming that, like most people, you've never heard of South Shore Movement,
allow me to include in the first sentence of this review that Signs
is a likeable album of bachelor pad music performed by a band of bachelors.
Let me explain: When Medeski, Martin and Wood's Friday Afternoon In the
Universe disc was released in 1995, I also called that album "bachelor
pad music." Actually, I think somebody else did and I stole it. Either
way, I was living alone in a one-bedroom flat in Northampton, MA when the
album dropped, and sure enough, it made itself at home when played on my
living room stereo. It was music that sounded great in an empty apartment,
and music that when played in front of company carried an air of
sophistication to it. It was a grand album to have on if you wanted to
impress a date (especially if you were cooking fish while the album played
through). It was hip.
Signs by Long Island's South Shore Movement also has all of these
qualities, but perhaps here they are even more pronounced. The reason being
isn't necessarily the music itself so much as the music makers. They're
twenty-somethings, Long Island music freaks who are no doubt bachelors
themselves, who are doing the best they can to make music for a living
while, you know, trying to make a living in the meantime. And although God
knows I hope they succeed, I also think these circumstances were crucial
requirements in making Signs the album that it is. That's not to say
that it sounds desperate or hungry or raw. It doesn't. Instead it sounds
well honest. And mature. The reason it gets the "bachelor" label (not to
be confused with "sophomoric") is that the music is too sincere and pure to
be tied down to any one thing, and has too much intent to be unnecessarily
attached. The music is open and airy, offering free-love instead of
The songs are carefully crafted with a wise nod to spatial relationships.
Wes Montgomery worthy guitar licks are there when they are needed, funky
nine-chop chords bring the beef but only for as long as they're called for,
and the nasty bass droppers (which can be easy to run away with) also
appear on an as-needed basis. Guest DJs scratch and spin just enough to
make for a warm and welcome surprise every so often. Classic jazz-groove
keyboard maneuvers always raise their hand first and only speak when called
on. Some of the songs themselves might ramble unnecessarily, but overall
the restraint shown here sets South Shore Movement apart from some other
young downtown jazz outfits.
These boys know when to drop the notes, when to pick them up, and what to do
with them while they're packing. It's a trick that, in music, will never
get old. And it makes for great bachelor pad listening.