Southern Weather Could Be a Breakthrough for The Almost

Artist:  The Almost
Title:  Southern Weather
Label:  Tooth & Nail/Virgin

After stirring up buzz and expectations with seemingly random live dates late last year, Underoath drummer and vocalist Aaron Gillespie’s solo project (he plays nearly every instrument on the disc) more than lives up to the hype. With a unique and current sound, excellent songwriting and more than impressive performances, Southern Weather has all the makings of an indie rock breakthrough.

Stylistically, The Almost is much more melodic than Underoath, with nary a scream to be found. It’s far from laid-back, though. Catchy hooks, diverse instrumentation, eclectic sonic ingredients and powerful lyrics combine thoughtfully throughout. The opening (and title) track establishes itself with an aggressively strummed acoustic guitar pattern à la Violent Femmes before tearing open into a power-pop gem that would make Foo Fighters proud. “Drive There Now” keeps the energy up while delving a little more into emo/indie territory before the third track, “Dirty and Left Out,” ambles in with slow strummed acoustic guitar and electric piano. If there hasn’t been an indie rock spin on Alt Country thus far, this is it. Pedal steel, aching harmonies and a wonderful gait make this not only a standout track on the album, but maybe for the year. (The borrowing from Bill and Gloria Gaither’s classic “Something About That Name” is used to perfect effect without a hint of irony or cynicism.)

The bulk of the material keeps the beat fast, the melody dominant and the guitars thick. “If Your Favour is Small I’m Perfect,” “Stop It,” “Everyone Here Smells Like A Rat,” “Never Say I Told You So” and “Call Me When I’m Honest” all drive with intensity and will find great favor with fans of Dead Poetic, the aforementioned Foo Fighters and alternative rock legends Big Star. “Everything Makes Me Sick” boasts not only one of the hottest vocal performances of the batch, but some of the coolest chord progressions and melodic motifs in modern rock. Slightly Beatlesque pump organ sounds are retro enough to provide color, without sounding too quaint.

Somehow, amidst the huge rock riffs, Gillespie manages to maintain an element of transparency and candor that inspires rather than wallows. Nowhere is this more apparent than the breathtaking “Amazing Because It Is,” an adaptation of “Amazing Grace” that ranges from deeply personal confessions via solo vocal and acoustic guitar colored by a string and horn section, all the way to a power rock coda sung by a simple choir and banged home with a driving hard rock beat. 

Perfect production, deeply heartfelt and spiritually powerful lyrics and a dynamic modern rock presentation make Southern Weather one of the first must-own sets of 2007.

© 2007 CCM Magazine.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.   Click here to subscribe.