Nothing screams Makin Waves like a triple album release party during New Jersey’s inaugural North to Shore Festival. That’s just what The Extensions, Fake Pockets, and The Foes of Fern are doing on June 16 on The Baronet Rooftop of The Asbury hotel. And all three albums by those local faves are June’s Album of the Month.
Let’s start with show organizer Brian Erickson’s band The Extensions’ “High Charisma,” their full-length debut for Mint 400 Records following the 2019 EP, “Bellicose.” The album opener is its first single, “With a K,” a delicious Nile Rodgers-like funk-pop aperitif ala Chic complete with a highly entertaining Prince-inspired jangle by relatively new guitarist Becca Cristino, plus a fantastic falsetto by Brian.
You’re gonna wanna stay on the dance floor for the second track, “Charm Offensive,” which reminds me when Cats on a Smooth Surface was the house band in the early days of a Stone Pony packed with disco suits and swirling dresses.
In “Follow You, Unfollow Me,” Brian beautifully lends his poperatic tenor, while coming to terms with relationships, lies and age. Then on the solid-as-oak “Big Tree,” bassist Will Blakey briefly takes center stage from the foundation he provides throughout the 10-song LP.
In the spirit of The B-52’s, it’s really great to hear lead vocals expand to the band’s two female members: Becca and co-founding keyboardist-percussionist Lisa LoVell. Lisa channels Leslie Gore on the rousing power-poppin’ tearjerker “Isn’t it a Party.” And she shares lead vox with Becca on the latest single, the subtly sassy “My Turn.”
Drummer Pete Stern stands out on the rhythmic feast of “Casual Day,” which brings us to the album’s second single, “Scene Famous,” an ode to the struggle of surviving as a big fish in a small pond, while trying to flourish beyond it.
Becca has some psychedelic fun on “Seeing Ghosts,” while “Typical Amerikan” cohesively closes the album by sticking a collective dagger into the diminished soul of a growing tide of fascism.
Mint 400 label mates Fake Pockets share a penchant for power-pop that continues on “Reverie,” a six-song follow up to the 2020 EP, “Magnolia Street.” They also shared with The Extensions mastering engineer Elaine Rasnake of Daughterboard Audio and mixing engineer Frank Lettieri Jr., Brian’s former band mate in The Paper Jets who also co-produced “Reverie” with Fake Pockets.
The fab foursome features founding singer-songwriter-guitarist Devon Alana, guitarist-keyboardist-vocalist Cara Introcaso, bassist-guitarist-keyboardist Bill Lambusta, and drummer-percussionist-vocalist Jake Resnick.
The opener of their impressive EP is a title track that sounds like the expressive vulnerability of Natalie Merchant balancing on the pop edge of a mashup between The Pixies and Weezer.
The Hawaiian breeze that is “Cut My Losses” is one of those irresistible songs that simultaneously makes you think and dance, much like The Cranberries or Natalie Merchant when she was in 10,000 Maniacs. A honeysuckle sweet solo by Cara helps the track stand out.
The fury that hell hath not is examined within the scorn of “Shut It Out,” served bittersweetly over a cacophony of rhythms corralled by Cara’s edgy guitar.
“Head in the Clouds” explores the country boundaries of pop, kinda like Gram Parsons, Tom Petty and Jeff Tweedy, while “Side Effects” brings this delicious platter to an all-too-soon close with an eerie, blistering set of confessions, both physical and emotional.
Reppin’ Asbury-based Telegraph Hill Records at the June 16 Baronet hullabaloo will be The Foes of Fern, whose “Rerun,” is a nine-song follow-up to the epic 2020 debut LP, “Carpe Diem.”
Still captaining a rock yacht filled with more mates and unusual instrumentation than any other band within the City by the Sea, founding singer-songwriter-guitarist Matt “Fern” Fernicola also seems to rely more on songwriting than the many videos that prefaced his previous LP.
“Foes Hold the Line” sounds like a cross between Depeche Mode and The Beatles with a danceable approach to orchestrated pop weirdness.
“Time Management” takes an edgier approach to horn arrangements, while delving into life’s most precious commodity. A trombone stands tall above the lovable Zappaesque zaniness.
The LP’s first single “The Ocean” takes a turn to Africa with rich rhythms and dreamy soundscapes. Next up is the deliciously horn-driven quasi title track, “Rerun,” which once again explores time but as a perfect waste of it.
“Day We Die” then cryptically but cosmically also explores escapism, while “Mi Amour” brings an edge to Latin rock, like Gogol Bordello has to gypsy punk.
At this point, I was hoping for a ballad for the sake of Fern’s vocal cords live, but alas the energy dips just a bit while the vocals at least are shared (whew!) on “Couch Surfing.”
The big band has plenty o’ fun poking at the virus known as greed with “Money Man,” fittingly bringing “Rerun” to a close and perhaps the closest thing this manic band can get to calm with the Spanish power ballad “Adios,” featuring a Ferntastic guitar solo.
Do not miss the triple album release party of these great local bands. It’s nearly sold out, so move on it!
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For more about North to Shore Festival, which takes place June 14 to 18 also in Newark and Atlantic City, click https://northtoshore.com.