Rags and Ribbons have found the perfect concoction for anthem rock that could fill stadiums to the brim.By pairing infectious energy and vulnerable, raw lyrics with soaring vocal harmonies and classical music influence Rags and Ribbons has managed to produce captivating music and harness a sound that is wholly their own.
The talented trio consists of Ben Weyerhaeuser on guitar, pianist Jonathan Hicks and Chris Neff playing the drums, and all three sing while playing. Many other bands choose to nominate a lead singer who is excused from playing whatever instrument he or she can play due to the difficulty of singing and playing well at the same time. Rags and Ribbons however, showcases their impressive level of musicality not only by all playing instruments and singing, but by arranging their voices into stunning vocal harmonies at the same time. The group meticulously crafts a emotion-stirring combination of anthem rock, pop, and progressive rock to form their distinct sound. Detectible are influences from Muse, Queens of the Stone Age, Arcade Fire, Cold War Kids and Queen.
Magnesium Dreams, their most third and most recent album, is perhaps one of their most dynamic and explosive collections of work–it’s simply bursting with power. The album packs a powerful emotional punch and harnesses something very difficult to come by. Rags and Ribbons has managed to not only transfer the raw, infectious and emotional energy of a live performance onto recording but also delicately craft and structure that energy into their music. The end result is inspiring, eloquent and downright touching.
Magnesium Dreams is chock-full of catchy hooks, soaring harmonies, poetic lyrics and even a synth bass, giving it a more electronic feel than previous works.
Title track Magnesium Dream kicks the album off to a exhilaratingly powerful start. It opens hauntingly, with the plucking of strings forebodingly creating an unsettling feeling. Then the piano rings through the din, clear and crisp along with one of the defining characteristics of Rags and Ribbons–the brilliant trifecta of vocal harmonies. This again reminds the listener of the level of musicianship each member must possess to not only tend to their instrument but to sing pitch-perfect complex arrangements. Magnesium Dream also attests to the group’s understanding of musical theory and their emphasis on dynamics. These guys know how to build a track, instrument by instrument, progression by progression: from a simple and haunting intro line to a chorus bursting forth with energy and passion. Their talent at using dynamics to create an emotional and cathartic experience for the listener is well-developed and clearly demonstrated in the title track.
Rubikon, the second track, is introduced a punchy staccato drumline soon joined by a similarly staccato piano and the vocals. The contrast between the smooth, coordinated vocals and the staccato instrumentals makes for a truly stunning song.
The introduction to Stand Tall is captivating. The guitar has a great deal of reverb and distortion, resulting in a track that is more hard-rock sounding than pop and the contrast between this sound and the harmonious vocals create a pleasing polarity in the song that is unmatched. A piano solo in the middle adds some softness to the track and helps incorporate more emotion into the music.
Gymnopedie D is completely different from the rest of the album. The track begins with a gorgeous and classical sounding piano solo, showcasing the talent of Jonathan and further highlighting the classical undertones found in Rags and Ribbons music. The piano is joined by distant ahhs that sound as if they belong in a Gregorian chant and creates a very soothing composition.
Pentakon begins with a gritty guitar riff paired with piano and then launches into the signature voices. This song brings to mind Queen, showcasing a similar glam rock feel paired with operatic drama and strong vocals. The chords used create an unsettled feeling which perfectly suits the repeated lyrics “I’m searching for symmetry.” I particularly like the call and response in the bridge, intermixing a strong, throaty rock voice with falsetto. This song demonstrates the group’s strength in composing songs rich in texture and dynamics.
Little Sirens concludes the album in a strong manner and leaves a lasting impression. An interesting narrative is woven into the lyrics and alluding to sirens–the mythical mermaids whose voices would lure in unsuspecting sailors at sea. The lyrics also address the struggle of dealing with a deadly allure and destructive obsession. The musicianship of these guys is absolutely incredible, pairing quality instrumental parts with expertly mixed and harmonized voices. This track is a wonderful way to wrap up an incredible EP.
Rags and Ribbons have showcased an incredible body of work in Magnesium Dreams. This EP is an eclectic mix of styles that is captivating. This is undoubtedly an album that demands a listen. It can be found at: http://ragsandribbons.bandcamp.com/album/magnesium-dreams