THE SHONDES – THE GARDEN (EXOTIC FEVER)
By Eleanor Whitney
If you’ve been waiting for an anthemic rock album for 2013, your wait is over. Meet The Garden, the fourth full-length release from The Shondes, a Brooklyn-based musical force to be reckoned with. Over their past few releases, The Shondes have honed their signature sound: high-energy, garage-influenced rock propelled by lead singer and bassist Louisa Solomon’s soaring vocals and violin playing Elijah Oberman’s sweeping melodies.
As with their past releases, The Garden mixes in melodies lifted from a classical and Jewish-folk repertoire, as well as imbues a healthy love for rockers like Bruce Springsteen and ’80s pop songs. The Shondes also infuse their music with a big hearted, political sensibility that cut its teeth on Riot-Grrrl and grew up with personal storytelling and anti-racist, pro-Palestinian organizing and activism.
The Garden is a musical and conceptual step forward for the band, representing a growth of songwriting and musicianship that has been sharpened by an ambitious touring schedule. The opening title track references one of the West’s oldest myths of exile from Eden and asks the listener if they have the power to go back to that paradise, asking, “Who told you to give up / Who said you’re never good enough… The place where you buried everything / Can you go back and find it again?” Love and transformation drive the high-octane, sing-along-style single, “Nothing More Whole,” which pushes listeners to dare to love even when they feel broken. The Shondes also fill the record with love songs for New York City like “Nights Like These” that delves into the sense of possibility that the city can offer.
The Garden is an exciting, well-crafted and engaging listen from start to finish, a mature rock album that crackles with fresh excitement, feminist energy, dance-worthy songs, well-placed vocal harmonies, catchy hooks and dreamy bridges. More importantly, it could serve as a the soundtrack to a magical, feminist musical infused with the themes of of heartbreak, hope, doubt, transformation and dreams made real through risk taking and community.