Disc 1 - Electric
Disc 2 - Acoustic
It's taken me a while to get around to reviewing the new Roxie album. Here's why. The album has been released two tracks at a time online over a two month period which means it took a long time to get the full album. I didn't want to review it until it was all available to hear, and then the Alice UK tour and Christmas got in the way. So in fact this has been available now for a few months now. On the good side, I've had plenty of time to listen to it, and even got to hear some of it live when Roxie 77 opened for Alice in Sweden, so plenty of time to digest the new music rather then the normal situation where I'm reviewing something on the first or second listen.
I'm assuming anyone who reads this site regularly isn't expecting an unbiased review? Good. It's a well known fact we here at STUK are HUGE Roxie fans, and Ryan is one of the nicest people on the planet. Having said that, if he released something that was bad, I would say definitely so. Luckily there's no danger of that going by the release.
'Two Sides...' has been a few years in coming. Ryan moved to Sweden and started working with various Swedish musicians which resulted in a cool band called 'Happypill'. They released a few songs here and there and played around the Swedish scene before settling in to record an album. Unfortunately the drug implications of the band name started causing a few problems so once the album was recorded a name change was called for. Anyone listening to the music of 'Happypill' knew who was behind it. This was Roxie 77 music. Somewhat reluctantly (he wanted the band to be equals and not to be seen as it being solely a Ryan Roxie thing) Ryan agreed to release the new material as Roxie 77 and here it is.
The album is split into two parts with almost all the songs appearing in both electric and acoustic forms (two sides etc). The song order listed above is pretty much made up by me, placed in approximate order the songs were released and split between two discs. As this is (so far) an internet only release there has yet to be a set running order so forgive me if an official one appears sometime in the future.
The first Roxie 77 album 'Peace, Love and Armageddon' I still think is one of the best albums this decade. It's amazing collection of songs, so the new album has a lot to live up to, but from the opening song it's clear Roxie has lost none of his songwriting brilliance. The new line up features Anton Körberg on drums, Magnus Wikstöm on bass and Eric Rydman on guitars and piano with all the band pitching in on backing vocals. Their performances here are also faultless and while Roxie is the obvious center point he can't do it on his own and this is a band rather then a solo project.
First up is 'The Question' which sets the tone for the electric side of the album. Perfect feel good rock/pop that just makes you want to jump around and sing along. 'Smell The Coffee' bops along next showcasing Roxie's supreme sense of melody and harmony both musically and vocally. Roxie is a great singer! Keyboard washes and even a horn section add to the song that you should play every morning one waking up! 'The Choice' is an great up tempo rocker before 'Way To Nowhere' pulls it back a little with a laid back swing. '36 Hours' and 'This Year' were both released a few years ago by 'Happypill' but fit in perfectly in the context of 'Two Sides..'
I could list every song one by one, but there's no point. It's universally excellent and you can listen to the whole thing yourself right now by simply going to roxie77.bandcamp.com.
The second disc features acoustic versions of most of the songs from disc one. It's interesting to hear the different arrangements and instrumentation but while enjoyable these versions really can't match the electric ones. Having said that disc 2 is perfect for mellowing out after a hard day. The laid back interpretations are almost the equal to the electric ones (a great song is a great song), an atmosphere enhanced by the inclusion of studio chatter introducing each song, making it feel like they are really playing in your living room, but in the end I think most people will find themselves playing disc one far more.
Worth mentioning is the fact that two songs only appear once on the album. 'I Am The Man' and 'So I Thought' are both quieter songs, so doing alternative versions was probably pointless and thus one is placed on each CD. One final track, 'Takin' A Vacation' was released some time after the main album was complete and as such maybe isn't considered part of the main album. But as it's available I just consider it a bonus track.
As I say you can listen to the entire album online or even use the handy player below, and decide for yourself, then purchase either the tracks you want, or the whole thing in one go in a variety of audio download formats including lossless.
In 'Two Sides To Every Story' Roxie 77 have created as perfect an rock/pop album as you could ever want to hear, and far and away the best album since... well, 'Peace, Love and Armageddon'!! It's is truly incomprehensible that they aren't huge, and being played on every radio show, every day, as their blend of power and accessibility is truly second to none. Roxie has a real talent for writing the perfect pop song WITHOUT sacrificing the power of a great rock band, and that is what makes them so special.