I first heard The Crushing Violets after encountering a link to their single, "Sugar Cookie Sunday," which is a musical confection that more than delivers what its name promises. So of course I was pleased when Antanina Brooks, lead singer, shared with me an advance copy of their EP, A Dream Without Color, since released on January 8, 2021. This family band from Long Island can be proud of packing some of the tastiest music you'd ever want to hear in 21 minutes of tight, melodic pop rock.
The first thing you notice when you hear The Crushing Violets is Antanina's voice -- a slightly husky, rich alto that to me suggests a bit of Chrissie Hynde and a bit more of Patti Smith but that is distinctly her own. It's warm but not really sweet and gives everything she sings a pleasant edge. I was also pleased by the attention to detail the band applies to their somewhat retro sound. As soon as I heard the organ kick in on "Sugar Cookie Sunday" I knew I was going to like their sound. Credit the band and co-producer Mick Hargreaves with knowing how to acknowledge your influences while still creating an original sound.
A Dream Without Color delivers on the promise of "Sugar Cookie..." and takes it in multiple pleasing directions. The variety of styles and sounds is enjoyable, and no song is longer than it needs to be, although I have to say when "Spirit Box" finishes up in a spare 2 minutes and 13 seconds, I was thinking that I wanted to hear more of BP Brooks heavy guitar and the locked in drum/bass sound they bring to that number.
For me, the emotional highlight of the album is "3 Days", which really showcases the strength of Antanina's vocals. When she belts "3 Days, no pain", you believe this is a woman who knows what pain is about. It's a remarkable song and deserves lots of ears. The song also features some fine guitar work from BP and a guitar/organ break that wouldn't have been out of place on a Deep Purple or Allman Brothers record. The ballad "Day After You" is another highlight for me -- BP's lead vocal blends beautifully with Antanina's harmonies, a combination I'd love to hear more of.
The excellent song writing by husband and wife Antanina and BP Brooks, joined in a couple of cases by their bass-playing son Conner, doesn't lag through the six originals, and Eric Tonyes provides solid support on the sticks. The final song, a cover of the Mindbenders "Groovy Kind of Love," both nods to their pop influences as well as giving them the opportunity to make it their own, with Antanina's distinctive vocal and a little wah pedal; a solid conclusion to a thoroughly enjoyable album. You can hear it all the usual places -- but why not pop over to their Bandcamp site and give them a few coins to show some love?
Eric Sandberg: My true opinion on everything is that it's splunge.