So the one sentence synopsis is this: Buy the CD version of this album and treasure it.
Also, if you like the song Master of the House, from Les Miserables, then you want to buy this CD and listen to it and treasure it.
Full disclosure before I go into the rest of the review: I have been a fan of this band for a while, and I have been actively trying to promote them to everyone I know. I am in the album thanks, and am not a neutral source.
First off, this album is musically wonderful. I often thing of This Way to the Egress as a visual band, because their live performances are so full of excellent showmanship. When you go to an Egress show, you never know who might stop by, circus freaks, burlesque performers, a random European baron, or a mad scientist bent on world domination (or maybe two Jesus impersonators). I often have trouble describing them to people, though, because they are so varied, so I often just play a couple songs of theirs to friends, who usually then say "when can we see them live?". In this album, though, Egress gives a wonderful tour de force of the many sounds they can create, and most importantly, the album is crisp. Every single instrument is clearly heard, the sound is not muddy at all, and it pleases my inner audiophile. The attention to detail is prevalent throughout, not only in the music, but in the production of the physical album. Without further a do: a quick track by track review.
Track 1: Last Kiss. This is probably the Egress song I've heard most often, and it's a good one to hear. It has been remastered for this album to provide a longer, more majestic, intro, and it is totally worth it. It makes you feel like you are walking into an old theater, with a live band, chandelier, fully upholstered seats, etc. And as the vocals pick up, you realize that the theater has a darker side, hinting at some huge past tragedy that haunts it to this day, in a way that is, well, delicious.
Track 2: Turpentine. The strings on this song give it a special aura. Again, it is hard to define in words exactly what the aesthetic of the song is, but it is spectacular in ways that recall traveling carnivals of the 1800s.
Track 3: Chapel Hill. I will admit the first time I heard the song, I was a bit unsure about it, mostly because they talk about removing peoples' hearts and burying them in a hill, but once my little heart transplant self got past that, it was all good. I will admit, the horn work on this song in particular is a really great touch, it takes the duality of the song, of mixed mournful and joyful tones, and accentuates both, somewhat redolent of a New Orleans big brass band.
Track 4: On a 45. For those of you who were not previously familiar with this band, this song, as well as the closing song, Saint, were the two songs I'd use to introduce people to the band. The extra work on the vocals between the version I had, as well as the addition of the crackles and warmth, to make it feel like the song was actually being played on a 45 left me feeling the need to pull out my old record players and just listen to my old 33s and 45s.
Track 5: Flirtin' With Death. This song starts off very mournful, with beautiful female vocals, and then picks up an eerie life, like if Frankenstein's monster midway through a soliloquy on the futility of life was suddenly shot full of Prozac and Ecstasy and given a backing band. By the end of the song, I was dancing madly around the room like a moron, and very very glad nobody else was around to see me looking so silly.
Track 6: Gypsy Shoe. Picking up where Flirtin' With Death left off, this song continues with the strangely manic, almost electrified and reanimated feel that has been building through the album and is a purely solid track. Not much more to say other than go listen to it and enjoy it.
Track 7: So What So What. This song puts a sudden break on the build that's been coming, giving a release to some of the tension, and at the same time showing the variety of sound that Egress is capable of performing. The low, almost growling, vocals make one think of a demonic Louis Armstrong, tempting you to come see what he has behind a velvet curtain.
Track 8: We'll All Soon Be Dead. I had the rare opportunity to get a studio version of this over a year ago, when I was DJing the Clockwork/Big Brass Ball events, and it had a note that it wasn't to be shared yet, as it was one of the special surprises for the album, and I ranted to Egress over twitter late at night that I couldn't get it out of my head. The difference between the studio version and the album version, though, is night and day. I was singing along with the refrain from the start and gaping at how they'd taken a song I already liked and made it into such an amazingly powerful and moving piece.
Track 9: Swashbuckler. This song was new to me, but a good pirate song never goes amiss, and this one mixes creepy and fun in a way that is uniquely Egress. I'll be listening to it a few more times before I write even more about it.
Track 10: Delicious Cabaret. If you are not singing along to this song by the time it's done, you have no soul. Guaranteed. I still find myself randomly singing it while working. The little jazz-y bits give it an extra joie de vivre that really cannot be missed.
Track 11: Saint. This was actually the first Egress song I ever heard, and I fell in love with the band right away. And I will say that since then, the instrumentation has improved dramatically, turning a good song into a work of art. This is truly a fantastic closing song, and truly one of my favorites.
After all this,I wouldn't be surprised if many of you went to download this album right away, but I will tell you to wait, because the craftsmanship does not end there. The physical packaging of the CD, as well as the art on the disc itself, are stunningly gorgeous, and still fit the overall aesthetic of the band in ways that astound me. This is one of those discs that is truly worth physically possessing. So go to [LINK COMING SOON] and buy it, or, better yet, go out, see them live, let them rock your face off, then buy a CD and ask them to sign it for you.
A few places you can see them
June 24, at the CD release party: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=202985989741141
July 16, at the Dorian's Parlor One Year Anniversary Show: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=117135848365529