Banquets – Top Button, Bottom Shelf

Band: Banquets
Album: Top Button, Bottom Shelf
Release Date: August 15, 2011
Label: Black Numbers
Hometown: Jersey City, NJ

I’ve been a fan of some of these gents from previous projects, and I enjoyed their EP releases leading up to this inaugural full length. When I looked out on the releases for the year this was certainly on my pull list and I was really looking forward to it. That being said, this album blew away all expectations.

The tracks on the album are laid out masterfully. In what every format you listen the album just flows. The A and B sides of the album are packaged perfectly in two five track chapters.

From the single, beaten opening chord of the opening track “377” the stage is set. As the track reaches it’s peak the baton is passed to the rolling emotional ride of “Just Me and My Jose Canseco Rookie Card” and we are off. “Forever Bender” picks up the pace, immediately evoking those classic Jersey themes of “long nights, and long drives.” Without a wasted step “Sound of Money” carries us with all of the proclamations and questions of growing up and moving on. Up and down strokes roll like speed bumps as “Best Night of the Night” takes off and wraps up side A with gang vocals and rings out.

“Fireplug” announces the start of side B. We are warned “keep it quiet, keep it hush” as “Heads Down, Thumbs Up” takes us down a subtle notch and eases us into “Unforgiven V.” Cymbal crashes sound as things slow start building until “Sometimes a Wolf” echos. The pace continues to build as “Lips to the Ground” climbs into the chorus, and finally a vocals are passed back and forth and take us to an emotional crescendo that perfectly wraps up the album.

Taking on the questions and insecurities of life with defiant announcements of being, this is no shy record. The powerful, emotional vocals are treated with well balanced, distinct guitar tones, complimentary bass work and drums that hold the pace and often set the stage without taking over. Top Button, Bottom Shelf is mixed and produced beautifully allowing each piece to perform it’s part while maintaining a natural feel.

This is album will, without a doubt, make it to my year end lists. Full marks all around.

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