Pittsburgh based, alternative hip hop outfit, Back Alley Sound, have produced a spellbinding debut album with their 2021 release, I Wanted To Be.
Pure, honest, and true to themselves, Back Alley Sound have perfected the medley of genres that makes them who they are. Hip hop meets funk and beautifully molds with elements of rock, R&B, and even a little ska, to produce a truly unique and inescapable sound.
I Wanted To Be was recorded over the course of a year at three different studios in Pittsburgh. The band had previously recorded the album but, being the perfectionists they are, were never fully satisfied with the outcome. That all changed in 2020 and, with the right lineup and the right people involved, I Wanted To Be became the album that they knew it could be.
Opening track “Monastery” sets the mood right away, and allows vocalist and lyricist, Shark Parker, to showcase his talents straight from the off. His flow is impeccable and the track, so infectious, will soon have you unconsciously head bobbing and toe-tapping along to it.
“Circle Back” begins with an effortlessly cool and funky bassline, and quickly becomes richly layered with live drums, a guitar and intermittent keys. The addition of a silky smooth saxophone is the cherry on top and the final piece of the puzzle that is “Circle Back.”
The ease at which the band is able to transition from upbeat melodies to more soulful sounds is seriously impressive. They’re clearly a very tight unit who feed well off of each other’s energy.
“Tropical” keeps things laid back, as the name suggests, and slowly leads us into “Juxtapose,” another example of Back Alley Sound offering up a delicious assortment of bold, genre-bending melodies.
The journey continues with “Sunday” and “Gold Once,” both expertly arranged and produced. Lyrically, Parker focuses on personal stories and life situations that all members of Back Alley Sound have experienced and lived through. “There’s no filler here,” says the band. “These are stories about ourselves and about our entire family here in Pittsburgh.”
“Flowers” shows the band’s rocky side. A dirty, fuzzy guitar riff and sharp high hat variations are the order of the day here, before a powerful and anthemic chorus takes you away.
The album’s closer, “Worthwhile” wraps up I Wanted To Be with grace and poise. The only problem? It leaves the listener wanting a whole lot more! And as a band who thrive in the live show arena, it’s a hard pillow to swallow knowing that it may be a while before they’re back out on the road. But make no mistake about it, when they are, we’ll be the first in line to purchase tickets.
Back Alley Sound » I Wanted To Be
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