Many artists have done some pretty weird things in the pursuit of creativity, and Long Island natives NGHBRS are no exception. To record their debut full-length album Twenty One Rooms, the band moved into an abandoned mansion, formerly home to famous American poet William Cullen Bryant, on the North Shore of Long Island. The band lived in this supposedly haunted mansion, without the modern luxuries of television or internet, for over two months while they recorded the album – not to mention that it was recorded live, which definitely contributes to its animated, delightfully unrefined sound. Whether it was the experience of being in such a unique place or the work of some unforeseen specters, the band certainly has something to be proud of with Twenty One Rooms. In fact, Absolutepunk.net coined NGHBRS as one of the â€œTop 100 Bands to Watch Out For in 2013.â€
The first track on the record, a catchy rock tune called â€œHold Up Girl,â€ sounds a bit like The Raconteursâ€™ â€œSteady As She Goesâ€ (unquestionably a good thing with this listener), with its foot-stomping beat and energetic vocals. The following track, â€œ1990,â€ keeps up the energy while showcasing the bandâ€™s impressive musicianship with elements of blues coming through the guitar and rhythm of the song. The experience of being in a creepy old mansion seems to bleed through on â€œWe Were Wolves,â€ with lead singer Ian Kennyâ€™s haunting vocals quietly singing, â€œWas it the whiskey or the rain, the night when we lost our brains.â€ The chorus of the song erupts in a heavy roar of threatening revenge: â€œIf you try to taste my brotherâ€™s blood, youâ€™ll get the worst of me.â€
The albumâ€™s namesake track is a bit slower, a bit more bluesy and soulful, and rife with lyrics soaked in metaphor. Considering it is only the fourth track on the record, already the album has a lot to offer. The following track, â€œWake Me In The Morning,â€ takes on a completely different feel. It is a soft, sad, piano-filled song with its refrain of â€œWake me in the morning, wake me when the sun is shining high.â€ Although drastically different from its predecessors, it is undoubtedly beautiful and another great example of the pride NGHBRS take in their musicianship. But not to fret; in keeping with the drastic change in style, the next track (â€œBeneath The Raging Sunâ€) jumps right back into the high-energy feel they left off on, racing rock chorus and all.
Twenty One Rooms truly holds something to please all types of music lovers. For the more standard hard rock fan, there is â€œEverything Is Beautifulâ€¦,â€ and directly following that is â€œDead Manâ€™s Blues,â€ (as the name would suggest) an acoustic blues track reminiscent of The Black Keys. â€œDead Manâ€™s Repriseâ€ follows, another speedy rock tune. â€œScrewtape,â€ the second-to-last song on the record, is a soft waltz, again showing the bandâ€™s fondness for juxtaposition of differing song styles. Towards the end of the song is a sharp crescendo ending in vocalist Ian Kenny singing a cappella before his bandmates join back at the end of the song. The album’s final song, â€œGreen River,â€ goes back to the blues, singing, â€œIf I said Iâ€™ve broken down, would you believe me?â€ As the song goes on it continues to build, getting more and more intense until the chorus explodes with, â€œIt feels so good, just to wash my pain away.â€ Though there are essentially only two different verses and a repeated chorus, the way the song is structured makes it a thousand times more complex than the lack of lyrics would suggest, further showcasing the talent running rampant in NGHBRS.
Twenty One Rooms leaves little, if anything, to be disliked. For fans of genuinely good music played by people who are clearly passionate about what they create, this album is one you will wholeheartedly enjoy. After all, whatâ€™s not to like about an album recorded live in a dead poetâ€™s haunted mansion?