By Justin Kay
Southwork is a seven piece band that hails from the great city of Philadelphia. And just like the city they call home, Southwork takes influences and ideas from all over and ties them together to create something that is both interesting and fun. Arise is an album that has a little bit of everything. While the foundation is built around ska and reggae, there are plenty of other influences and genres found throughout the album. Southwork takes layered vocals and puts them over the numerous instruments they use to create a big sound, while still remaining clear and focused. Because of this there is a certain jam band feel to these guys and the influence is definitely prevalent throughout the album. Like most jam bands Southwork can absolutely play the hell out of their respective instruments, but unlike most jam bands they say what they need to and move on. Thankfully they avoid the dreaded ten minute trumpet solo and spacy, often unstructured guitar solos that true jam bands are known for. They actually do the opposite which is the best thing about this album and this band. They never over play anything and keep the songs moving with constant tempo changes and fresh ideas.
The influences on Arise range from bands like Streetlight Manifesto and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, to acts less associated with ska and more associated with the jam band scene like Moe. Mike Vivas does a great job of switching things up with his vocals throughout the album, but I still can’t help comparing his voice to Bradley Nowell of Sublime. There is plenty to like about this album and if your open minded to music and enjoy well written songs regardless of the genre, you would be hard pressed to find something on “Arise” you did not enjoy or appreciate.
The album opens up with the title track which eases the listener into things and slowly builds up. The next song “My Demise” really gets the party started with an upbeat instrumental and solid vocals that complement the music well. “My Demise” transitions seamlessly into “Trapped” with no break at all and really keeps the album moving full steam ahead.
Another thing I really enjoyed about this album is how the guitar work is not just simple little ska and reggae riffs. On top of having a very good voice, Vivas can absolutely shred on the guitar and he showcases his ability on this album. “Sundry” not only shows off Vivas’ prowess on the guitar, but is really a testament to the entire bands ability to quickly transition from one style to another while moving the song forward and keeping a solid structure from start to finish. In this song they go from aggressive guitar riffs that are borderline metal, into a fast paced ska tune with great melody. The album is pretty consistent overall, but takes a change of pace with the song “Only You,” which is a piano fueled ballad with moving melodies. The album closes with “Peace of Mind” which maintains a fast pace throughout and ends the album on a high note.
Southwork keeps things interesting and fun from beginning to end and they strike me as a band that would be really fun to see live. With the ability to not only dominate their individual instruments, but to demand the listeners attention through fun and exciting songs, Vivas and company seem to have the perfect combination for entertaining an audience. Ska is one of those genres that find a lot of bands lost in a sea of similar sounding acts, but after hearing this album it is clear that Soutwork has enough musical ability and diversity in their sound to avoid being lumped together with the rest of the bands in this genre. The sky is the limit for this seven piece from Philly, and if they can gain the exposure they deserve, it wont be long before people are comparing other acts to them.