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Planetary Nights - Today Ain't Too Late (Album Review)

By Edited Jun 17, 2014 1 0
Planetary Nights - Today Ain't Too Late - Album Cover and Review

From the first chord strum on the opening track "Embers" to the final trailing vocal melody and bass lick on "Infinite Embrace," Planetary Nights, the musical vehicle of singer-songwriter R.J. McSweeney is sure to impress with their most recently album release titled Today Ain't Too Late. The sound and style have evolved over the three albums previously released on the Planetary Nights label since 2009 and reflect an Americana vibe, dynamic storyline, as well as an assortment of influences soaked up in the clubs and music venues of his hometown New York City over the decades. While McSweeney is the vital life blood of this musical venture, Today Ain't Too Late would not be an album as we can experience it today without the guest musicianship of Kelley Looney (Steve Earle) on bass, Rob Thomas (Peter Frampton) on keys and Phil Cimino (Chris Barron) on drums. Additionally, the production of this album was performed by roots rock veteran Eric "Roscoe" Ambel, who also contributed his renowned guitar wizardry. Holistically, Planetary Nights celebrates American folk music with a blend of classical rock, roots, blues, and even elements of jazz music on occasion. This eclectic blend makes for a very enjoyable listen, and I expect that most listeners will find a lot to enjoy in this radio and television friendly release; while still providing enough "kicks" to even impress active professional musicians as well.

SOUND:

Planetary Night's latest release Today Ain't Too Late was excellently and professional produced. Previous tracks by Planetary Night have managed to find their way onto mainstream television, with features on A&E's television show "Dog the Bounty Hunter" and an ESPN (to name a few). The ability to license music to television should instantly allow you to understand that this music on the sound front is very well done. The vocals are in the forefront of the tracks a majority of the time, and every instrument is fully audible when necessary; and most importantly all of these instruments blend together perfectly to create an atmosphere that is undoubtedly well translated to live settings. The most impressive track on this album to my ears is the down tempo track "Ghosts in My Mind" which seemingly takes us away from the earlier standard rock tracks to a relaxing, almost island-like, soundscape. The diversity contained on this album will be continually highlighted as I examine other aspects of this album.

COMPOSITION AND INSTRUMENTATION:

The music contained on Today Ain't Too Late has a significant pop sensibility, while maintaining the relatively pure and unscathed Americana/folk rock influences. On the compositional front, these tracks will undoubtedly appeal to people who like traditional music structures, ballads, and rock and roll styled music. My personal tastes would have preferenced to see some tracks move towards more experimentation and progression of these genres, but for what it is I cannot find myself complaining very much. Atmospherically, these tracks are very appealing when considered in the context of a bar or some other live setting. The "American" elements, such as horns, female backing vocals, the grungey overdriven rhythm guitars, and similar qualities will undoubtedly appeal to the patriot in all of us; but fortunately these additional elements add significant diversity to the album, which in itself is an aspect of folk music in general that is often overlooked but makes every folk melody appealing time and time again.

The instrumentation on this album is on the whole superb. At some points, I wish the tracks would include more in the way of lead instrumentation; but more often than not I do not find much flaw with the heavily rhythmic instrumentation. Rhythm acoustic and electric guitars drive a majority of these tracks, while an occasional lead guitar, horns, piano, organ, and similar instruments may seep in to and an additional layer to the tracks or propose a different melodic direction for a given segment of a song. Several of the tracks on Planetary Night's album also feature solos, respectively on an organ or a electric guitar, which add heavily to the songs as they diverge away from being heavy on vocals and lyrics and allow the skilled instrumentalists to perform unhindered. Some standout tracks from my multiple listens to this album include "Rollin' On Again" for the vocal duet and the enchanting rhythm and organ usage, "Ghosts in My Mind" for it's relaxed island-like atmosphere, "Breeze" for its synth usage (at least I believe it is a synth) and it's fantastic rhythm and melodic elements including the usage of a saxaphone, and the final track "Infinate Embrace" for it's ballad-like atmosphere and acoustic solos (which remind me of a great neo-folk band named Nest) to conclude the record.

A few tracks left a little more to be desired on my part, in part because the structuring of the songs became rather boring to listen to from one song to the next. Still, this may remain an issue that is more-so related to my experimental/progressive outlook on music; and to be objective from a pop music standpoint I would digress that most people will enjoy all of these tracks without even considering the compositional aspects. Inevitably, it is a "too each their own" type of situation, but as a reviewer and a musician myself I find this monotonous song structure to cause some tracks to fall to the wayside. Still, simply put, I believe this batch of 14-tracks is very well done on the whole instrumentally and compositionally well done. The few bad apples to my ears are relatively easy to forgive considering the albums length and target audience. The music of Planetary Nights on this album is very streamlined, and for those who enjoy rock music and ballads; these tracks will no doubt fit well in your collection.

VOCALS AND LYRICS:

I was surprisingly impressed by the vocal performances on this set of tracks, not only by lead vocalist R.J. McSweeney; but also by the female backup vocalists who lend a rather beautiful and feminine element to these tracks. McSweeney's vocal stylings remind me heavily of a blend of those found in rock/grunge music traditionally (drawing some mild comparisons to those of Bon Jovi's namesake), and in some ways reminding me of those vocals found on tracks by The Dire Straits (with whom I find Planetary Nights has much in common). Undoubtedly, if you are familiar with Americana, roots, or folk rock music you will have no problem becoming acquainted with these very approachable voices on Today Ain't Too Late.

Lyrically, Today Ain't Too Late features very well done though fairly standard lyrics for the Americana genre. Most of these 14 tracks dabble in themes very common in music, and on occasion leave us with rather thought provoking lyrical passages that fortunately surpass the lyrics of most singer-songwriters currently on the market. For example, on the track "Ghosts in My Mind," the lyrics state "Watchin’ the shadows crawl ‘cross the floor/Cursin’ the way I’m missin’ you more/Done all I could - no use in cryin’/Haunted each day by ghosts in my mind." Pairing these lyrics with McSweeney's voice leads to an almost perfect listening experience.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

Planetary Night's latest album Today Ain't Too Late is an excellent album. I have a massive amount of respect for musicians and the often difficult process it takes to record and produce a full length album, and with his growing popularity in the mainstream, I find the music of Planetary Nights to be appealing to a wide range of people. While I have noted some problems I had with this album throughout this review, such as the repetitive song structures, at the end of the day I believe that the music contained on this album will be heavily enjoyed by many people, both the studio recordings as well as the music when it is played live (and it is!). I would ultimately rate this album a 7.5/10 as it is very well done. I also suggest that you purchase a copy of it, as it is currently only a mere $5 dollars on Planetary Night's Bandcamp page.

If you have any comments or questions regarding Planetary Night's release Today Ain't Too Late, be sure to leave a comment or contact the band at the links below!

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:

Planetary Nights Official Site
Planetary Nights Bandcamp


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