REVIEW: Never Shout Never – Time Travel

Artist: Never Shout Never
Album: Time Travel
Genre: Indie/Folk/Rock
Label: Loveway/Sire

It seems to be said all the time, but social media really has changed the musical landscape. Until about 2006, bands needed to actually make EPKs and send out physical demos to get widespread recognition. The postal service was still healthy and Myspace was just blossoming, times seemed simpler.

At some point that changed and almost overnight things went from physical to digital, forever changing how publications and the industry as a whole approach the faceless masses known as unsigned talent. Anyone can contact anyone at any point and as such, the life expectancy of a “buzz band” has shrunk to about as long as they can stay featured on any given number of blogs. It’s frustrating, confusing, and most of all, killing the ability for artists to establish themselves to a point they can survive and play music full time.

Not everyone has it rough though, some do make good and quote/unquote “break through.” Of those aspiring young legends, few have developed a reputation and unique career path quite like Chistofer Drew and his ever-folk laden project Never Shout Never. It started with a tattoo-less, disheveled hair wearing, peace sign flashing teenager that talked about being little people and running away to chase big city dreams, but it seems anymore Drew couldn’t be farther from that person. Now in his early 20s, his fashion has gone from bright and cheerful to an almost unbelievable level of “traveled heart,” obviously inspired by his own favorites like Dylan and the still alive soul of rock and roll, but what’s really surprising is his musical direction. The simplicity, both lyrically and musically, is still completely intact, only now coupled with a wealth of experimentalism and orchestration that helps place him in an echelon of talent few, especially the young, ever reach.

So far in 2011, Drew has been largely quiet. The tour schedule for his last release ended in the early months of the year and the freedom from the road almost instantaneously drove Drew and his fellow NSN cohorts to return to the studio. Unlike previous outings, the group chose to build a studio themselves this time and not only record, but produce their own record. Though Drew has always been highlighted for his level of creative input, this would become his first truly organic product since his early demos in 2005/2006.

September has arrived and with it, Time Travel, a release sure to redefine Drew’s career forever. Gone are the days where Drew and a guitar were accompanied by knee-slapping backing and cutesy piano, this is a boy turned man in the public eye with a lot of confusion, frustration, hope, and wonder rooted firmly in his soul. The opening title track proves this, mixing atmospheric synth and percussion with reverb-heavy vocals and lines about wanderlust and growth to create a sonic mushroom trip that more than sets the bar for creativity and experimentation on the record.

As the album’s second track, “Awful,” begins, it’s clear Drew’s fascination with classic rock, specifically the work of Queen, has played a large role in shaping the sound of Time Travel. The song starts with a Motown-like bass line, but quickly evolves with an arena ready hook and harmonies that few, if anyone in the current scene could duplicate. It’s at this point in the record that Drew and crew immensely grow their sound and really, the feel of their music overall. From the moment this chorus hits with full backing and harmony, the album moves from a modern, well produced record of surface level impact and cute love songs, to something that honestly feels timeless and larger than life. This is only re-enforced by the sure-to-be show stopping bridge of “Silver Ecstasy,” which features Drew belting his strongest vocals to date.

Some may recall Never Shout Never’s cover of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and shutter when the band is again put near these rock Gods, but Time Travel is a different creation altogether. That failed experiment was Drew attempting to be that band, but this is him fully mixing his own unique sound with the perfect amount of influence to create something brand new, yet classic in nature. The album is more relaxed than the majority of NSN’s catalog as well, with much of the back half being considerably drawn out ballads. This is only a complaint if you’re not ready to get into what feels like NSN’s hazy float down a river of musical impressionism. Where Drew is at times annoyingly blunt about his feelings and emotions, the instrumentation of “Until I Die” and “Lost At Sea” leave ample room for listeners to take away their own thoughts on song’s meanings and history. It’s as if he’s found a way to tell his story, while giving the listener an opportunity to tell their own at the same time.

As the album’s final notes play out, it’s hard to believe this is the same young man who gave us the Me & My Uke EP just a few short years ago. Time Travel is a release miles ahead of anything in Drew’s back catalog, which should be saying a lot whether you’re a fan yet or not. It embellishes his previous work, adding harmonies and instrumentation that feels lifted from his vinyl collection, but also opens doors to creative alleys not yet explored (or even thought of) for him and his musical cohorts.

SCORE: 9.8
Review written by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell
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3 Responses to “REVIEW: Never Shout Never – Time Travel”

  1. […] Travel arrives in stores next Tuesday, Septmeber 23. Read our review of the record, here. Share and […]

  2. The whole album is totally amazing!