At one time or another, most of us have had the “desert island” conversation with our friends, where we make a list of the ten movies/books/music albums we would want if stranded on an island with sand and a coconut tree. It is a great conversation starter unless the other person says “well I would just bring my iPad.” At that point, you politely thank them for ruining your fun and walk away.
Choosing music is very critical and very difficult. What can you listen to over and over again while you grow a giant beard and wait for a plane to fly by and see your HELP sign you fashioned out of logs and beach grass? For me it is an album that has a solid music structure, good hooks, even better riffs, and causes feelings I thought were buried to immediately bubble to the surface.
Every time I listen to the debut album by Dead Sara, I can’t help but think of all of these bands and albums. The Los Angeles based quartet has been winning over the hearts of those who have had the chance to listen to them, and they’ve been doing it the old-fashioned way: by rocking out with honesty. They did it by knowing what a song bridge is and how to use it effectively. They did it by just putting out a debut that is as solid as one can ask for. They did it by putting something out that makes you feel like a teenager again, locked in your room and diligently going over the liner notes as you listen to the album over and over again.
The eleven tracks traverse several genres from pop-rock, to hard rock, metal, blues and southern rock. At the heart of each track are furious distortion-laden chords by Siouxsie Medley which are matched in ferocity and tenor by Emily Armstrong’s gritty vocals. The trust between the two high school friends is an essential ingredient of the band’s talent, and their foundation is complemented by bassist Chris Null and drummer Sean Friday. Together, they create songs with fuzzy riffs, catchy hooks, and hard rock foundations. Armstrong’s vocals are packed with loads of emotion without feeling overwrought. When she chooses to showcase her pipes by screaming vocal cord shredding lyrics, they are not overbearing but express the raw emotion of the song. As a listener, you can tell she is channeling something incredibly personal and authentic each time she sings.
This formula creates an album that passes “the rock test.” The first three tracks grab your attention and keep the momentum up to “The Weatherman,” their strongest track. Medley sets the table for an anthem with a powerful riff and Armstrong covers all bases with raw screaming, falsetto chorus, a crowd pumping spoken-word interlude and effect-laden bridge. It is a “fuck yeah!” song, though the energy dips as it transitions into the ballad “Dear Love” but immediately picks back up. It then builds into “Monumental Holiday,” a high-energy, power chord-fueled adrenaline pumper that will leave you trying to catch your breath after listening to it. The album has an abrupt genre shift with “Timed Blues,” a bluesy southern rock song, equal parts twangy and viciously grunge. The closing track, “Sorry For It All,” a well-polished pop-rock ballad lacks the rough edges of the previous tracks but is a fantastic spiritual coda to the record.
Dead Sara’s ability to put out a pure, back-to-basics rock album that channels so much inner feeling and the superb work ethic required to write such powerful songs have endeared them to those who have been lucky enough to hear them. Their music is infectious and leaves you wanting more, but that is not what has endeared them to me. It is their ability to tap into all that is rock and extract out something new and profound and remind me of why I love music in the first place.
That is why I am including them in my desert island library.
Their album releases this fall, in the meantime, go to their site here to sample their music, or check out some stuff below.