The dictionary defines the word alternative as “affording a choice of two or more things, propositions, or courses of action”. Alternative music is just this, music created using many different actions, giving musicians the choice of which sounds and methods to put together to create something truly different. Rainy Day Manual, a Memphis band created in 2005 by Chris Faulkner (guitar/vocals) and Seth Hendricks (Guitar/keyboard/vocals) with the addition of Keith Pounds (bass/background vocals) and Preston Ross (drums/percussion), set out to get this eclectic sound with their soon to be released album entitled “Instructions in English”, which after reading through their lyric sheets has struck me as the perfect title. The musical abilities of these four become fully apparent just listening through the album once to get a grip on the overall sound of the album. The multiple influences and different sounds that are put together to create these tunes are almost mind-boggling at times, but in a positive way, sometimes taking sounds that remind me of big band, but at the same time circling back to more contemporary genres such as rock and even hip-hop. As hard as I will try to give a brief description of each song, this album has to be heard to understand the complexity that has been attained after a lot of time was spent at Memphis ‘ own Ardent Studios with engineers Jason Gillespie and Mike Wilson. So, here is my attempt to run through the ingenious sounds and ideas of Rainy Day Manual’s new album “Instructions in English”.
- “Tangent” begins the album with a steady strum of a guitar, a great way to introduce their technical sound. The lyrics are spoken in the form of wonderful harmonies, which play on the multiple guitar sounds, the keys, and the steady beat of the bass drum and high hats. All the time, telling about moving forward and making sure not to look back at things that cannot be changed. A versatile song that captures the ears and makes you want to keep moving through the album.
- “Postscript” is a tricky song musically. It starts out with a quick time type beginning and then goes into a rock, guitar heavy section, and then leads into the vocals. The lyrics remind me of an afterthought of a failed relationship and then hints at a problem that all people deal with, ignorance. The constant change in tempo and overtone keeps you listening through the track while the lyrics guide you into thought.
- “Get it, Got it, Good” reminds me more of an easy listening, almost ballad-like song, but blends in a rock sound and beat to make this another complex track. Lyrically, this song reminds me of the cat and mouse game that lovers play.
- “Camouflage” takes all of the sounds heard in previous tracks and continues to showcase them. The vocals are spot on, the melody and harmonies are perfectly matched, and the structure of the song is really solid. The lyrics seem to be talking about someone that puts up a front, but is a completely different person in reality.
- “Drip” speaks again to the versatility of the sounds created by this thoughtful, exacting band. Starting out with a very soft piano part that almost reminds me of a wind-up music box, then coming in deliberate with the rest of the band. The vocals tend to be a bit sarcastic towards someone who is obviously sad, telling them “won’t make it better when you cry”.
- “Sideways and My Ways” is a jazzy tune complete with an upbeat drum line, brass accompaniment, and vocal harmonies that harken back to a previous time. A rock-solid guitar solo spits up the verses and comes back towards the end of the track, which makes for a really different mix of styles.
- “Speak and Stand” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. The guitar chords strumming at the beginning are just enough to get your head nodding to the beat, then the bass comes in with an early 80s hip-hop sound, and once the beat pops in from the drums, you really start tapping your foot and grooving to the awesome vocals and lyrical flow. About halfway into the track, the song completely changes dynamics a few times before returning back to the original sound with a little edge.
- “Mary Annette” is an interlude type song for this album. The piano is absolutely breath-taking and sets your mind at ease and pours into your ears and fills them with an amazing, classical sound. It is very short, but very sweet, leaving you wanting to hear more like it.
- “Puppet” starts as almost a continuation to the previous song, leading in with a beautiful piano part that leads into some awesome vocals. Slowly, the track builds up, adding in guitar and bass line, but continuing with the vocals and piano. A pause takes you into a 180 degree spin and throws you back into the rock sound, which is actually quite heavy compared to the previous 8 songs.
- “Shapes and Numbers” has a sort of big band feel to it. Between the vocal harmonies, the brass sections, and the slow, but measured percussion take you through the verses. The vocal styles that these guys bring to the table are nothing short of astonishing. Throughout the track, harmonies are quite prevalent, but there are times where the singing goes back to an emotional rock sound.
- “Encounter” has a very unique sound. The track boasts a very prominent keyboard part that is backed up by a fun bass line. There are parts of this track that remind me of 70s rock songs, with the heavy chords and bewildering effects. This is a solid track from beginning to end, assuring listeners that this band will not stay in one sound for long.
- “Just a Day” comes at you right away. Another one of my favorites, the tune and the vocals compliment one another very well. The lyrics keep your attention in the form of a story of a failed relationship and how even though things are terrible, you have to keep pushing through the pain. This, like every track, is very intelligently put together.
- “Entertainer” does it’s best to keep you guessing yet again with its final track on the album. The vocals take you on a journey, starting almost like an old country song and evolving into about three other different sounds. The beat and bass is constant, while the guitar changes from intricate notation to chorded strumming multiple times. The solo towards the middle is spot on in intertwining the different sounds.
Rainy Day Manual has managed to record one of the most unexplainable albums I have had the pleasure to listen to. The infusion of so many different styles works very well in every song on the album and is sure to appeal to many different types of listeners. From classical to rock, the instrumental portion of this album has managed to keep you guessing constantly. There are moments I was listening and something changed and I had the thought “Wow, that’s awesomely different”. The vocals are amazing, harmonizing perfectly to the instruments and vice versa. These guys have a bright future ahead of them and “Instructions in English” is a great way for them to show off the versatility that this band possesses.
I’d like to personally thank Jason Gillespie at Ardent Studios for contacting me and letting me get ahold of this album prior to the release date. Also, I’d like to thank the guys in Rainy Day Manual for taking their talents and showcasing them for everyone to hear.
If you would like to get your hands on a copy of the album, Rainy Day Manual is holding a CD release party at Newby’s on the Highland strip in Memphis, TN. The show is Saturday, February 26th and is absolutely FREE. Come enjoy the multiple sounds of Rainy Day Manual along with Mobley and fellow Memphis rockers Chosen View for FREE.
For more info about Rainy Day Manual, go to their official site here or like them on Facebook here!
Let’s bring Memphis music back together!