New influences take rock band to a dark territory
Fans of Valencia, a five-piece pop/rock band from Philadelphia, know the group for its upbeat melodies and soaring choruses. Its latest release sees Shane Henderson (vocals), Daniel Pawlovich (drums), JD Perry (guitar), George Ciukurescu (bass) and Brendan Walter (guitar) stepping outside of their comfort zone both lyrically and musically in an impressive fashion.
Their signature pop/punk/Americana sound remains intact, but are supplemented by new R&B, blues, country and Mexican rock influences quite masterfully throughout the album.
Kicking things off is the recordâs title track, âDancing With A Ghost,â which features the trademark clean guitars of Walter and Perry and a beat sure to get hands clapping. The song starts the album off right with its sing-along chorus and thoughtful lyrics.
The next track, âSpinning Outâ features slower, more melodic verses bolstered by Hendersonâs soulful vocal delivery in the powerful chorus. Throughout the song, he sings lyrics that include I feel like Iâm in over my head / I just always self-destruct / I guess Iâm blinded by the sudden loss of love.
âStill Need You Around (Lost Without You)â is a somber, touching offering that packs one of the greatest punches on the record. It is at this point where Valencia starts reinventing itself and where the album really takes off.
Normally a slow song would feel out of place this early in a record, but it actually works here. Accompanied throughout by a violin, the song builds up in epic fashion in the bridge as the band members come together to provide emotional vocals about trying to grapple with the mortality of their parents and how difficult life would be without them.
Up next is âConsider Me Dead,â another new direction for Valencia. It is the hardest song in its repertoire, complete with guttural screams in the background of the bridge, and although it is slightly repetitive, it still provides an enjoyable listen.
âLosing Sleepâ sees palm-muted guitars in the verses that give way to an absolutely soaring chorus as Henderson sings, You know I wonât give up without a fight / Even if Iâm the one whoâs wrong and youâre whoâs right.
Perhaps the most interesting song on the record is track six, âFriday Night.â It opens with a classical orchestra before transitioning seamlessly into a down-and-dirty rock ânâ roll guitar riff that demands attention. The verses carry a bluesy vibe to them and the chorus is sure to get people moving.
Valencia then drops the tempo with the next offering, âSomewhere I Belong,â a track where an orchestral theme backs Henderson as he softly sings lines such as, My life has always been a dead-end street / With heavy eyes that shoot through me. Complimented by a female vocalist by the name of Simon Wilcox, the harmonies here are nothing short of beautiful.
Following such a stunner is no easy task, and âDays Go Byâ seems to come up short in comparison to the previous track. Although it is good as a stand-alone track with its bouncy verses and catchy chorus, it just simply does not have an impact like its predecessor. The folk feel that it takes on in the bridge, though, is quite intriguing and consequently begs for the entire song to be replayed.
The last two tracks on the record close it out in dramatic fashion. âThe Wayâ has a bit of a country twang in its guitar riff while featuring an upbeat, memorable chorus reminiscent of Valenciaâs previous release, We All Need a Reason to Believe.
The closer, âStop Searching,â is perhaps the best song Valencia has ever written. The guitar riff is utterly infectious while the pounding drums and Hendersonâs vocals in the verses create a Mexican-rock vibe. The chorus features Valenciaâs first endeavor into double-time drumming, also known as the âpunk beat,â and the song is full of hooks and energy exemplified by group vocals. The vocals are also top-notch, with Henderson belting out lines such as, Did I speak too soon about the elephant in the room / Iâd survive with or without you but what would that prove?
All in all, Dancing with a Ghost is an intriguing listen that sees a band knowing its signature sound, but reworking it tirelessly to turn a good album into an excellent one.
Although the flow seems a little off between the two ballads and their subsequent tracks, the album as a whole is quite cohesive, and it begs to be listened to as a whole as opposed to skipping around.
Simply put, Valencia know how to make good music, and Dancing with a Ghost provides thunderous support to that claim.