A Fusion Classic with a Splash of Modern, Over Ice | Sliced Limes

Sliced Limes

A fusion of something classic and something modern… over ice.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What happens when you take that iconic voice of Joe Jackson, something that is so 80s but also Lounge Lizard Crooner at the same time, and take it from being piano-based to laced with the jangle pop guitar of someone who honed their skills in the Arizona desert with the Rock Legends of Tempe? You get something totally different, and unique. You get…. Sliced Limes. Some time back, I was riding to Tucson with Ryan King, listening to his band’s new record. I said, “Okay, Max’s vocal, they aren’t Spandeau Ballet and they aren’t Tears for Fears, but they are making me think of that swoony 80s ballad singing.” Ryan pulled up “Stepping Out” and said, “He actually gets Joe Jackson quite a bit.”

That comparison, that nostalgia that instantly takes us back in time, like smells from our Mother’s kitchen, leaps right out of the first track. But as soon as you think you have it nailed, you start to realize that the only real comparison to those old bands ends at the sound of Max’s voice. The music you are hearing underneath it, is something very different: each song was like a Delorean, holding me suspended between the love of the music of my youth, but firmly rooting me in the instrumentation of the present. The other realization right off the jump, is that this album is very nicely mixed. Recorded at STEM Recording with Curtis Grippe, this first song showcases a quality that continues through each track of the record. It is very easy to get drawn into Ryan King’s guitar and Max Rowles’ vocal, but when you allow your ear to focus on the understated Puerto Rican / Latin infused cadence of Alex Lopez’s drums, or the solid back-beat rhythm laid down by Tim Caggiano on Bass and Kyle Trueba on guitar – they leap forward, and it is possible to focus on each part. As I was saying at the top, the big difference between the 80s crooners and Max is layering that vocal over guitars rather than heavy keys, but even the subdued clarity of Dan Lecavalier’s keys are easy to pinpoint and appreciate on this record. Each part is audible, and possible to isolate.

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One of the first thoughts I had when I first dove into this Sliced Limes record was what an easy listening, happy album it was. Max Rowles’ vocal is playful, quirky, and very easy to just kinda groove along to. (Give it a few listens, you’ll be singin’ along.) But when you dig into the lyrics of what he is actually saying, there is a sarcastic element, a tongue in cheek sense of humor, and I found myself wondering not a few times, if Max wrote his sadness or disappointment into happiness. Like slicing a bitter lime to create the perfect beverage.

The vocal is spry and playful, and there is almost this du-op quality, almost Beach Boys, but the song is about being a flake, not being able to keep dates, always being late, and full of several degrees of bullshit. It is that clashing of expectations, almost Surreal – that sets this band firmly in the category of one that deserves more than just a casual listen. It is feel good music. It is fun. You can easily imagine putting it on for a day alone doing house chores, listening to loud music… but there is more going on underneath the happy Ryan King ahhhs.

What is really awesome on this record, at least for me (as you know, I LOVE Old School Tempe, and Ryan King does too…. but he is 20 years my junior). Listening to him play guitar on this record, you can hear the influences of Doug Hopkins, Thomas Laufenberg, and maybe even a little Josh Kennedy. But Max is nothing of that style. He brings in the quality of another era, and sporadically infuses it with some rockin violin!

Two take aways. Ryan King’s guitar is like another vocal lead. It has that kind of clarity. And Max can pack a lot into what seems like a simple song. He plays with the speed of his delivery, and can load a lot of words into a song phrase. So as you are bopping through the house, rockin in your socks as you fold the laundry… don’t be surprised if you find yourself thinking some thoughts about all the dances you have been late too… but you just go through the motions anyway.

And the album plays this way, like a back and fourth game of cat and mouse. Pulsing with great drum parts, lyrics that make you wink at your date and share a secret smile, and a sly wit that smirks with Horation satire and sarcasm. The instrumentation is clear, playful, and a unique fusion of modern licks and nostalgia. You cannot go wrong with Sliced Limes!

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