CD Review: Quiet Life - Act Natural

CD Review by Adam Wujtewicz

So everyone knows by now that Quiet Life released a record this year. Also that that lead guitarist/vocalist Sean Spellman, has moved to the left coast and that the rest of the band is to follow in January. 

If you’ve seen Quiet Life play live you know it’s a high energy, alcohol fueled happy time show.  Act Natural is pretty representative of that.  It’s a fun record – it’s warm sounding, and like the live shows there’s a few surprises.  The album’s diversity is really something to behold.  Believe it or not there are stoner rock songs on this record...  "Trying to get Home" and "Every One" contain some pretty big riffs and a solid distortion sound.  With a little extra reverb on Sean's wavery, folky, bluesy vocals they are allowed to float over the guitars like a feather on the breeze but still cut through the mix like a straight razor. You mix those two tunes in with some acoustic numbers like the foot-stomper "Night Time" and the sensitive guy type ballad "California" and that gives you miles in between to make the bulk of a record.  Let’s face it these songs aren’t reinventing the wheel or anything but they’re solid, well written tunes that help to add dimension to the record.  Those are obviously the two poles of this record, most of it is somewhere in between the riff laden rock and the acoustic folky tunes and that’s where the real magic lies.

The rhythm section has a lot to do with this even though they can come off as very subdued with the amount of guitar and vocal on the record.  "Trying to get Home" has great bass and drum presence but can tend to  get a little lost and the guitars and vocals start carrying things away.  "Niantic Bay Blues" is a great song that starts off with a lot of great sounding bass and drums but the guitars kick in and you can start to lose your place.  The guitars do sound great though, there isn’t a thin sounding note on the record but I always thought of the bass and drums like the ring masters that kept the lions from taking over the circus.
Apart from sounding thick, the guitar sound is hugely varied which is a great way to keep things interesting.  Another thing that will more than likely get taken for granted on this record is the "decoration". The horns, banjo, pedal steel,  organ and harmonica are things that make this record special.  Not that they are the only band that uses these instruments, but they use them all to their full potential in the songs. It's not a gimmicky half-cocked attempt at being different... it's done with the intent to make the song sound better.  The frill with this record does lie in the instrumentation rather than any sort of studio magic.  The sound of the record is just warm and inviting, it's a very honest sound.  There is pop sensibility not only in the song writing but in the actual sound.  It’s not slick and shiny – because if it was it would sound weird and fake. It’s not muddy and under produced either – then you’d lose all the articulation which is important  to the genre.  It’s a happy medium that allows Act Natural to be appreciated by a much wider range of people. 

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