After a name change and EP release, Chicago rockers Vintage Blue, formerly Tanglewood, are back with their debut full-length, Strike the Mics. The bluesy quintet impress with 13 tracks of standout vocals, powerful music accompaniment and evident rock influences. With alternating vocalists and songwriters Ben Bassett and Ryan Tibbs sharing the mic, each track is refreshingly new and unpredictable.
First track, “Set You Free” features ear-grabbing guitar riffs, powerful horn interludes and smooth harmonies. An appropriate start to Strike the Mics, the energy skyrockets throughout the entirety of the track. With driving guitar and a slight jam-band feel, Vintage Blue quickly draws the listener in.
“Unchained” captivates with a guttural scream at the track’s start before percussion and soaring electric guitar parts enter. A heavier rock number, the song showcases Vintage Blue’s musicianship with driving beats and striking vocals. With soulful keyboard accompaniment and gritty guitar throughout, Vintage Blue’s prowess is evident here as it is easy to envision them rocking in an arena setting.
“California Road” follows suit with delicate vocals and a steady drumbeat showcased. With descriptive lyrics and insightful life reflections, the band demonstrates its more serious side. Soulful background singers coupled with blasting horn features further flush out the sound.
The first single off Strike the Mics, “Speak” picks up the pace next with nearly 30 seconds of instrumentals before sultry singing is heard. With a driving beat and sexy accompanying music, it’s impossible to not tap your feet along. An adequate introduction of Vintage Blue to the rest of the music world, the song impresses.
“Hey Hey” and “Sleep On This Tonight” continues the energy before the rustic “Here To Stay” takes over. With a biting guitar riff at the song’s start before wailing vocals enter, the song embodies distinct country and rock influences. Lamenting and begging “Don’t leave me here alone,” the listener feels for the man in the song. Resembling Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl at times, the rock undertones leave a mark.
Introspective ballad “Just Breathe” strikes a chord with slowed music and heartfelt singing. With relatable lyrics and a perfected blend of music, never overpowering the story behind the song, Vintage Blue show their knack for songwriting and musicianship. “What Lies” appropriately follows with measured guitar interludes and percussion accompaniment next to dark and smooth vocals.
While the early tracks on Strike the Mics showcase Vintage Blue’s rock side, the end of the LP demonstrates the more serious nature of the band. With thoughtful lyrics, emotive vocals and yearning guitar parts, the band demonstrates their ability to easily switch gears without losing sight of who they are. Tracks like “Great Divide” satisfy with beautiful string parts and poignant harmonies. With whispered vocals that bring to mind singer-songwriter Joshua Radin, the track strikes a chord.
With the vision of placing a contemporary twist on classic rock, Vintage Blue succeed. Strike the Mics embodies 13 standout tracks that showcase the band’s ability to rock arenas while at the same time perform an intimate acoustic set. Not always an easy thing to accomplish, Vintage Blue’s debut full-length aptly showcases their staying power.