Album Review: Transfer- Shadow Aspect







Shadow Aspect





Shadow Aspect is available at:



Dark Behavior- 9.2/10.0

The Widow- 9.2

Kills Me Every Time- 9.4

Reflections of Home- 9.3

We Don't Have to Be Nice Anymore9.0

The Pace of Youth- 9.1

Hellbent Together- 9.4

Instincts- 9.5

Breeding- 9.3

If the Morning Comes- 9.5

So Long Old Song- 9.2




Kills Me Every Time, Reflections of Home, Hellbent Together, Instincts, If The Morning Comes


24th June, 2014


Alternative, Rock


Having toured with the likes of Kaiser Chiefs- and being hailed by Q Magazine and ClashTransfer mix the Heavy-Blues of Led Zeppelin with the Folk warmth of Simon and Garfunkel: Shadow Aspect is festival-ready set of winners; warm and epic; bombastic and melodic- guaranteed to dominate your thoughts.


A matter of a couple of days...

after the end of the world's greatest music festival (Glastonbury), the dust is starting to settle; bands- who played the event- return to mortal realms: their universes seem a little bit smaller and quieter now. As memorable as the festival was- Dolly Parton nicked the highest honour from Kasabian- it got my mind thinking: what do we look for with regards to festival best-sellers? One would be hard-pressed to draw a line through Metallica, Lana Del Rey, Arcade Fire, Kasabian and Lily Allen: I guess each act has a certain amount- if varaiable- of force and passion; a degree of danger and menace to some of their songs- by-and-large there is a lot of difference between these acts. The fact that a U.S. Country legend (in her 60s) gained the most press just shows you how different musicians connect to certain people- whilst the headliners gained huge crowds, you cannot underestimate the so-called 'underdogs'. Gone are the days- or perhaps not- where a certain brand of music guarantees you a lifetime of musical acclaim- by that I mean sticking rigidly to a particular genre of style. The artists that are confounding and mesmerizing musos are those whom employ diversity and variation within their music. Having caught the event- from the epic atmosphere of my home- I witnessed a lot of different acts come and go: the artists that kept their sets interesting and changeable were the ones that elicited the more enthusiastic response. I guess that when it comes to history, the artists that gain the most recognition- and enjoy the longest careers- are those with the deepest and most varied albums. In my own ineloquent way, it brings me to San Diego's Transfer:

Shaun Cornell, Andy Ridley, Jason Cardenas and Matthew Molarius

"TRANSFER is an anthemic American rock band that emerged from the San Diego music scene in a big way last year with a run of international tours, festival slots, and a coveted appearance on the acclaimed documentary series Live From Abbey Road. The four principal players of TRANSFER pour a lot of soul into making storming, propulsive, rock music with sparkling hooks that can lift spirits, move hips, and satisfy even the most discerning of musical ears. Founding members Matthew Molarius (vocals) and Jason Cardenas (guitar) began a songwriting partnership at an early age in their pastoral northern California hometown. They formed TRANSFER, collaborating with San Diego artists to craft an increasingly ambitious rock aesthetic. They began recording in the studio of Shaun Cornell, who would eventually join the group as bass and keyboard player. The addition of British-import Andrew Ridley (drums) upped the ante for what would prove a breakout year. With their label debut album Future Selves in 2011 (Mascot Records) TRANSFER takes in electro psychedelia, blues bluster, Simon & Garfunkel folk balladry, and all-out prog pomp in an album bound with anthemic choruses, moody guitars, and skewed pop hooks. The live sound of their stadium-sized riffs and anthemic lyricism finds them nodding to the "five basic food groups" of rock'n'roll: The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and The Stones. Following the release of their critically-acclaimed LP Future Selves, TRANSFER embarked on international tours with the likes of The Bravery, White Lies, Kaiser Chiefs, and most recently Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, amassing a growing, devoted fanbase in Europe. Their potent live performances have earned TRANSFER coveted spots at summer festivals including T in the Park, Hop Farm, and Hard Rock Calling. Generous with their praises, the press has repeatedly labeled the group "ones to watch" and the band most likely to emerge from America's indie hinterlands. (Q Magazine) (Clash). TRANSFER has received numerous music awards in San Diego (Best Rock Band, Best Rock Album for Future Selves, Song of The Year ("Losing Composure" off Future Selves), and their animated video for "Take Your Medicine" off Future Selves took Best Rock Video honors at the 2011 Houston International Film Festival. TRANSFER's success is measured in moments, snapshots of a journey that's taken them halfway across the world, along a sea of cherished friends and fans... including one in particular who stands out. While recording their television segment at Abbey Road Studios, Sir Paul McCartney himself dropped by to offer TRANSFER his encouragement. After their 2013 European tour with BRMC, TRANSFER returned to San Diego and hit the studio to complete their anticipated follow-up album SHADOW ASPECT, set for release in early 2014. The new album is the musical culmination of the band's experience and offers an amalgam of their collective influences. A timeless heartbeat that lyrically explores manifestations of the darker, or shadow side of the human experience, set within a sonic soundscape that is broad in range and dynamic in nature. Shadow Aspect is a focused work of song-craft offering a spectrum of sound that varies from stadium-sized anthems to the fragility of a single acoustic guitar and harmonica. Echoes of the past can be found within the multiple layers of the album, offering elements of dark, heavy blues, paying homage to Sabbath or Zeppelin, while other scenes are more expansive and painted with warm textures of horn and string arrangements. TRANSFER delivers a sound that is completely original, yet vaguely familiar, harnessing the appreciation of tone and melody, while delivering moments of fragile reverb, epic bombast, and utter intensity."

Being familiar with the music scene of California, it is no surprise that Transfer have accrued such acclaim and appreciation. Their Facebook and Twitter numbers run into the thousands; their fan base is worldwide and burgeoning- I would be shocked if the quartet weren't amongst Glastonbury's elite in the next few years. Their ambitious sounds- that mix '70s Blues Rock and Folk with 21st century drive- are a perfect blend: few other bands have such a conviction and confidence. With such a busy last few months behind them, who knows where the band are headed next? Their growing army of adorers will be hungry for new material- although their latest album is a week old- and keen to catch them in the flesh.

For anyone encountering Transfer for the first time: you should investigate their previous L.P., Future Selves. With Indie overtones, the album garnered a lot of positive reviews. Anthemic jams and swelling vocals stacked alongside mellow and emotional numbers. The band displayed how catchy and memorable they could be- across the album's collection of songs. The album is rife with confidence and personality. The four-piece have a clear sense of identity and drive, with no nervousness or hesitation to be found. Whilst influences such as Kings of Leon and White Lies come through, a lot of modern-day icons have been incorporated. Faded Signal and Sunken Eyes (E.P.) showcased Matt Molarius's voice more fully (than Future Selves) and were synonymous with hugely emotive and effecting vocals- as well as repeatable and incredible tracks. Future Selves employed more emphasise on sound and style- as opposed to vocal force. The album showed an evolution from their sapling cuts: their confidence increased exponentially and the band began to infuse two songs into one- they became masters of the modern-day Rock epics and displayed their incredible musicianship and energy. As terrific as their past movements are, Shadow Aspect marks a step forward. With each release, the quartet sound more assured and comfortable: their previous L.P. had plenty of wonder and stand-out bliss, yet their new release is fuller and more developed. Embers of '60s and '70s masters are thrown into the pot; they keep their '00s Indie strands but broaden their palette- everything good that came before is intact but the San Diegans have smoothed any rough edges. Some critics stated that a few songs from Future Selves failed to ignite: The likes of The Killers and Athlete could be heard too strongly. The group sound more original and rejuvenated now: bombast and stadium-sized reverb and riffage remains, yet there are fewer fillers (on Shadow Aspect)- making their overall sound much stronger and universal. There are fewer evocations of early-career Coldplay and more individuation: you can tell how hard the band have worked to ensure that their latest offerings are no slouches. It is important that every band matures, develops and galvanise their music: Transfer have taken this on board and put quality and concision ahead of cramming as much as possible into an album.

Anyone that is a fan of the likes of Athlete, Coldplay, The Killers and Arctic Monkeys will discover some familiar sounds in the band's outfit. The San Dieago boys can mix Coldplay's early-career beauty and sweeping emotion with modern-day Monkeys Indie grit- sometimes within the space of the same song. Previous outings such as Future Selves- as well Shadow Aspect- pack in faint touches of a lot of different acts: Simon and Garfunkel, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Arcade Fire are just a few names. I wouldn't concentrate too heavily on other bands and artists- Transfer are their own inspiration and are synonymous with their ambitions and diversity as they are with other acts. Blues, Rock 'n' Roll, Acoustic, Alternative and Indie are represented in the quartet's music- if you are a fan of any of these sound's you will love the Californians. One of the things that strikes me about Transfer is their moods and songwriting. They do not merely stick to sad/happy; emphatic/tender- emotions are mixed together to ensure that they never lose energy or intrigue. Able to whip up a festival barnstormer or compel with something introverted and tender, the boys have a deft talent for putting the listener in a better mood. Too much new music can come across as stale, repetitive or bland: Transfer have plenty of drive, fascination and punch to grab the attention- the lyrics and songbooks are stuffed with relevant stories and deep thoughts; the vocals full-bodied and filled with conviction and urgency.

The opening moments of Dark Behavior promise something quite epic. Rumbling percussion and cymbals are joined with swelling organ- romantic longing and a sense of resplendent mix with one another to welcome in the track. Before you let your mind drift into a world of church scenes and respectful processions, an emphatic and heady rush is summoned- the boys unite in a chorus of 'woahs' and 'ohs', backed by clattering percussion. Molarius steps into view to offer his thoughts and insights. Speaking to an unnamed paramour, he advises them- I would imagine it is a former love- to consider the future: "Before you leave" she needs to step back and think. Offering images of blood running in the street; the cessation of innocence, a primal and pulsating drum smash adds energy and a sense of danger. The vocal switches from paced and powerful (before the 2:00 mark) before it explodes- and Molarius lets his voice soar and explode. Marking an emphatic and anthemic start to the album, the entire band are tight and in the mood: electricity and passion are kicked into top gear, as Dark Behavior hits its mark. Imploring to his subject to hold on, our hero will hold and support her when the weather turns- explaining that it is hard to find her in the darkness. Few other names and acts come to mind- when trying to find comparisons; maybe a few Indie acts, but nothing obvious- instead you get the sense of a young man on the precipice of an emotional conflict: the way the band conspire and support emphasises this longing. With squealing and wracked guitars, the last few seconds are a maze of chorusing and evocative lightning strikes. With one last roll of the dice ("It's too hard"), the story ends- leaving you wondering if our heroine got swept away or was offered a hand of salvation. Yet more pugnacious and rampant percussive notes greet in the next number: The Widow is a slicker and groovier beast; it crawls and jives in the opening exchanges- baying for blood but with a smile in its heart. Like Black Holes and Revelations-Muse the intro. covorts and sexily pervades. When our frontman comes to the mic., there is a sense of compassion and inquisition on his lips- his voice is restrained and calm but filled with direction. Backed by a driving and propulsive support from his brothers, the central figure is investigated: Molarius asks what an old girl is to do "in need of a friend." With loneliness and emptiness present- the widow and our hero stand solo- the frontman's voice is at its impassioned best- you can hear the sense of anxiety and pain come through. Similar to the opening salvo, The Widow boasts a rich composition: the pace changes and it has a great sense of mobility and ambition- funky bass and guitar changes to Indie guitar-paced calm in the space of seconds. It is perhaps the vocal that shines through hardest here: intensity and a gravelled gusto scores every line- making the song immediate and hard to ignore. Continuing themes of morbidity and death is Kills Me Every Time- although in less of a literal sense here. Beginning with the same sort of energised and seductive intro. early-career Rolling Stones/Hendrix would recognise, you instantly bond with the song. Our frontman is in impassioned mood once more: on the point of explosion, he struts and campaigns with a hot-bloodied belt. With his voice quivering, the band whip up an appropriately striking composition: the percussion clashes and smashes; the guitars lick their lips and spit; the bass is laden with plenty of charm and libidinous intent. Having been treated "like a dog" (every time), our hero is bereft and exhausted: a devout believer in passion and love, strips are being torn from the flesh- it seems that Molarius has been here before, and may be here for the final time. Once more shadowy guitars and sonics are instilled to provide a sense of day-night shift; acting not only as a memorable punctuation but a perfect dose of contrast- amidst the fast-paced and rifled vocalisations, it allows you to draw breath. Stepping away from the pulpit of demonized longing and regret, Reflections of Home provides solace and calm: with haunting embers in his voice, Molarius laments about "Too many years and too many things gone wrong." In spite of the reflective nature of the song, there is still room for the typically pointed percussion: acting like an accelerated heartbeat, it ensures that a sense of unpredictability remains in the background. Returning back to "where I belong", the aching and tender performance makes you long for our hero: everywhere he goes there are reflections of home, it seems. Everything comes back to the chorus- and the central message- with gracefulness and plenty of heart: the inclusion of elongated and urgent trumpets add an extra layer of emotion to proceedings. Like tracks before, there is a sense of catchiness and indelibility to events: you will find yourself humming the chorus and recalling the sway and arms-in-unison spirit of the song. Order is restored when We Don't Have to be Nice Anymore arrives: belting percussion spars with vibrating guitar- amongst scenes of celebration, the song's (anti-) heroine "had to ruin everything." The galloping pace of the vocal gives the song urgency and a feeling of angst: whether the aftermath of a birthday or date, the damage has been done- our hero has no intention of being civil anymore. Cardenas, Ridley and Cornell manage to add spades of movement and colour, yet let the central vocal say its piece: having more in common with modern-day Indie, it is the closest equivalent of their Former Selves. With another overwhelmed and soulful vocal display, the song urges you to sing along and support the Transfer's leader- it is slightly less spectacular than before but no less potent. The Pace of Youth is suitably slow-building: shuddering electronics beckon in our frontman- emotions and introspection once more come to the fore. With our hero and his subject swimming across the sea, he implores those that send prayers across the ocean to save one for him- it seems that life is throwing up roadblocks and trials. The composition is probably the most fascinating and interchangeable: a mixture of darker and languid strings blend with beautiful and haunted refrains- the former puts me in mind of The Great Escape/Blur-era Blur. Molarius is living on the run (with his generation) and in need of support. A rousing refrain of 'ahhs'- and twisting trumpets- give vivid force and conviction to the final moments- catchiness and darkness sit alongside one another again. Soft and elliptical notes welcome Hellbent Together. Our frontman is at his most effecting and shivering here: the vocal is awash with emotion in the early stages- backed by acoustic guitar. Wondering whether his sweetheart has been calling out his name; it appears the duo are hellbent together: it seems like they have drifted apart but clearly have feelings for one another- the song acts like a call across the ocean. Lonesome and Blues harmonica strains put me in mind of early-career Dylan: that same blend of instrumentation and vocal delivery sit beside one another- the song's theme has D.N.A. with many of Blonde on Blonde's most touching cuts. Whilst the tears dry, Insticts provides a necessary cocktail: spiky and pressing percussion; intoxicating electronic growls roar- the intro. is a heavy and swagger beast. There is a sense of sexualisation and lust that drips from the speakers: our frontman is "not an animal" yet is bound by his natural urges- backed by fuzzy and reverbed guitars, whispers of The Rolling Stones come through again. A familiar and sought-after beau is calling: like an echo being recalled, images are not enough- the sheer memory of a desired moment is causing Molarius's soul to be ripped apart. As hard as the vocal presses and pervades, it is the guitar work that elicits the biggest hits- echoes of Muse, Jack White, Led Zeppelin and Black Rebel Motorcycle are detectable. As the song's sand grains are drained, the sense of imminent coming together forces its way in: the composition sweats and seduces; you know that something (or someone) is going down. Animalistic and Jack White-esque Blues glory elevates and defines the track: displaying a juxtoposition of what has come before, the band show just how adaptable and adventurous they are. Pummeling drums, trickling guitars and magisterial organs back our hero: there is nothing on his mind (tonight) but getting satisfaction- possibly at the expense of his own sanity. Precoitial come-hither remarks are offered up- by the final moments, it seems that Molarius is totally spent. If Instincts was suggestive, Breeding suggests something even more explosive. The bellicose and intentful percussive build- tied to a chugging and machine-like guitar line- does nothing to dispel this. Telling his target to "have your babies" and sit in the dark; intentions here are less crotch-inspired- although no less emotive. See what comes; "let 'em grow"; heavyweight hearts and life's realities are examined: fact-of-the-matter truths and cold facts are laced around an evocative and pumped-up vocal- the band rustle up plenty of steel, soul and sagacity. Various guitar elements are fused and entwined: industrial and mechanical buzz, lighter Indie shades and '60s Rock swathes perfectly push the song forward and present a myriad of contours and colours- topped with another all-male choral coda, Transfers complete another gem. From the first seconds of If the Morning Comes, you know that something curious is afoot: embryonic gentle strings evolve into something bloodlust and surging- the atmosphere mutates and grows teeth within a few steps. "I could never love you more" it is said- by our hero- yet it seems that words are more self-deprecating and regretful than you would imagine. His former lover is with her new man; he could never break her heart and let her down- "the way that I can." The album's deepest and most mature moment arrives here: our frontman is earnest and honest as he admits that if he could do things all over again- nothing would change and he would do the same. The hero is not incentivized to lie or be dishonest: he is built the way he is and feels resentful that he could not be a stronger man- or at least one that is more suited to his lost love. Organs and swirling guitar stirs emotion into an already fraught boiling pot- the vocal never feels sorry for itself; instead remains dignified and dry-eyed. Fractions and impressions of Elbow come through in the song's bare-chested wounded pride: one could draw some comparisons between the two. Bringing Shadow Aspect to its close is So Long Old Song. A paen and tribute to an old song is paid: in need (the song) of comfort when growing old, our hero seems like he is speaking to a friend or relation- rather than anything musical-based. After the rambunctiousness of past songs, some time for contemplation is afforded: the vocal is reliably passionate and dedicated to the cause- when singing "Do you remember when you were bold in your youth?", the vocal seems wracked and pained. Letting the radio play and the melody stay "for the whole night thorough", you get the feeling that there is double-meaning and ambiguity at stake: I get the impression that a past lover or fondly regarded friend is being addressed. As the last haunting notes trip away, the album reaches its stunning conclusion.

Marking a leap of confidence and a lack of asperity; Shadow Aspect shows fatuous critics just what they were missing all along: the beauty and power has always been there. I myself have compared songs to other artists; mentioned Transfer in the same breath as others- if you train your mind that way, you will never hear past these limitations and expectations. Whilst Former Selves had one or two pallid songs, the album as a whole possessed huge potential and foresight- the band have simply added to this and become more convinced by their own ability. I suppose that critical recognitions and high praise proclamations propelled the boys through their last creative spell- the results seem less anxious and more relaxed than on previous outings. Fantastic production values highlight the band's strengths: a brilliant contrast of softer and bolder numbers; consistently tight and controlled performances; plenty of compositional surprises as well as deep and relatable stories- topped off with urgent and impressive vocals. The album's running order is well-considered and just about spot-on: gentler numbers nicely break up a run of bigger anthemics; the album is not top or bottom-heavy- meaning you never lose interest or can predict what is coming next. The fact that the band is as confident and convincing when playing the role of libidinous lovers as they are disaffected young men shows a lot of bravery, talent and flexibility- and means that their album is fuller, richer and more compelling. Maturity and infantile recklessness add weight and elevation when necessary and the band ensure every track is tight, urgent and full of life. On that note, my final footnotes go to the guys themselves. Lead by a charismatic and multi-talent singer, Molarius makes sure that every word he sings sounds essential and must-hear: his voice goes from a seductive and dirty whisper to an emotional and staggered scream- a few singers possess such a range, yet few apply it to songs as strong as within Shadow Aspect. The guitars, bass and drum all combine wonderfully, and none steal focus: Shaun Cornell, Andy Ridley and Jason Cardenas support one another splendidly and never succumb to vote-winning or posturing. The guitars- when the mood is darker- creep and crawl; they growl and buzz like a psychotic swarm of hornets. When things are more reserved and tender, they are up to the task- capable of eliciting as much soul and comfort as required. Such is the sonic range: the fuzz and buzz; the rainbow stripes and Blues-Rock epicness- it brings so much life to the L.P. Bass lines keep everything in check, but add tautness and muscular cockiness at times- smoothness and sophistication in equal spades. The bass is often overlooked- when it comes to assessing music- yet here it is a vital component: the stoic alpha male; it makes sure that everything is authoritative and focused. Final kudos go to percussion: so many of Shadow Aspect's tracks contain (or begin with) punch-drunk and mesmeric percussive smashes- it shows just effective and elementary the instrument is. A lot of bands such as The National are synonymous with their phenomenal percussion- listen to their albums and find out- Transfer have hit upon a crucial formula: add weight and force with subtleness and nuance- then times it by eleven.

Having grown in strength and conviction- since their early days- it seems that Transfer are on a trajectory that will include festival headlining and world tours. As well as having some important tour dates already under their belt- and in their futures- they are gathering momentum like a wrecking ball. Former Selves is an assured, nuanced and bold album- a perfect starting block for Shadow Aspect. With emphasis placed on atmosphere and intense moments, their original- yet as they put it, "familiar"- tones will thrill their existing audience; bring in a lot of new fans- whilst ensuring that positive and effusive reviews come their way. I have only been investigating the band for a couple of days, yet am impressed by their drive and overall quality. There are legions of bands around the world that offer the same promises- that Transfer do- but few actually deliver enough to ensure they remain in the mind: the San Diego quartet separate themselves out and seem likely to have a huge future ahead of them. Shadow Aspect hints at their early days, whilst building upon it significantly: gone are any unsure edges and narrow focus- the band have dispensed with the Coldplay/The Killers heavy hearts and replaced it with something more unique and ubiquitous. Having just witnessed a hell of a music festival, I have a sort of hangover: I want to hear epic and anthemic sounds; something captivating and interesting- that mixture of soft and considerate; huge and noisome. Transfer provides plenty of cure and remedy: Shadow Aspect demands repeated listens so that its charms fully reveal themeselves- there is immediacy and urgency as well as nuance and layers. San Diego is perhaps California's most fervent and prosperous music spots- putting the U.S. city ahead of even New York. Having previously encountered The Midnight Pine and Little Doves, I can see a lot of them in Transfer. The former's mix of thought-provoking and deep lyrics and the latter's heavy sounds and primal urges find their way onto Shadow Aspect- although our boys do things in their own particular way. Plenty of U.K. and European music outlets (and venues) have switched themselves onto Transfer's lust: I suspect that the four-piece will be gaining even more positive press and attention when the album is fully-digested. My mind and desires invariably find themselves yearning for new and hungry bands: those that provide fascinating songs and bags of personality. Transfer ensures that their music and information is easy to find- they have an authoritative and full official page- and can be connected with in a heartbeat- their Facebook and Twitter pages are kept current and tantalizing. Music offers so much choice and availability, that it can be difficult deciphering what is good; what is good for your particular tastes: it is a positive minefield of differing sounds and sights. The San Dieago clan are improving and growing with every new release: Shadow Aspect is not only a brilliant album, but hints at what their future holds. Given the adulation and patronage they have already received (from magazines, radio stations etc.), the boys have no intention of slowing down or toning down their ambitions. In an industry where critics behold bands like they're in a Dutch auction- and offer little in the way of widespread and reliable investment- Transfer have no intention of defrauding and embezzling...

THEY are money in the bank.


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