Friday, April 25, 2014

Review: Joe Tripp and the Hops - 6 Songs

It’s been an uphill battle for Joe Tripp and the Hops. From having to change their name to avoid identify conflicts with a UK-based band to earning their stripes playing gig after gig in and around the windy city of Chicago, theirs has been a band in a constant battle for survival.

“We are a band of talented individuals, but maybe not talented enough,” Tripp humbly offers. “We have had many ups and downs. At some of our low points it seems like we have lost every contest we’ve entered but then something turns around like being named one of Chicago’s best local acts by the Illinois Entertainer.”

It’s those moments of success that Tripp and company continue to mine for inspiration and encouragement, continuing to work at their music and tirelessly promoting themselves. Their 2011 release Won’t It Be Fun was a big step in the right direction, garnering some solid praise as well as the opportunity to work with Doug McBride (Fall Out Boy, Veruca Salt.) And now the band is set to try to maintain that moment with their latest release, the aptly titled EP, 6 Songs.

The band’s been compared to acts like Weezer, Incubus, and The Gin Blossoms and those influences are definitely evident throughout these tracks, replete with plenty of pop accessibility, but there’s also something of an old school punk vibe that undergirds their overall sound, lending just the right amount of edge when needed. “Signs” leads things off with a jangly lead guitar and three-part vocal harmony that works well, giving added energy. That’s followed by “There’s Something” which draws from much of the same cloth, a set of bright keyboard fills and some vocal distortions providing contrast.

“Fantasma” ups the energy with a rocking intro and more harmonies in the chorus while “Heart Cries Out” slows the pace, Tripp showing off his vocal chops although this time around the harmonies don’t deliver quite as true, hindering an otherwise well-crafted jam. “Let Go” is another slow-jam, its effervescent feel hinting at a lazy day lying along the beach with solidly pop-flavored guitars and strong beats from drummer, TJ Walker. Lastly, the band closes things out with the gently rolling “Who Knows,” atmospheric guitars providing a launching point for Tripp’s impassioned vocals.

6 Songs does suffer from the occasional hiccup, less than stellar harmonies at one point and a production that feels somewhat muted at points, leaving vocals difficult to discern in some junctures and contributing to a boxed in feeling at others, but, those issues aside, there’s plenty to recommend here. Joe Tripp and the Hops showcase some strong chops on this EP and as they continue to develop their signature sound, there’s a good chance we’ll be hearing from these guys again down the road.

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