"Ticking Clocks and Masquerades" must have occupied a lot of New York Summer's time.
Sonically, the dozen tracks assembled by the four Oklahoma City musicians are crystal-clear and as near-perfect as locally produced albums go. In fact, the recording itself is as good as anything I've heard emanating from any corner, anywhere, so kudos to engineers at Agoraphobia Studios and Jaron Nix, who mixed "Masquerades."
NYS' arrangements are equally pristine. There's a lot more here than guitars, bass and drums, but it's hard to determine exactly what. Guitarist/keyboardist Michael Blakemore and drummer Adam Chamberlain are responsible for programming the electronic embellishments featured most prominently on songs like "So Messed Up," and "It's All I Know." The effect is subtle, and doesn't turn into a crutch leaned on by the musicians, who sound fine when stripped to rock 'n' roll basics.
Marking the midpoint, "Passengers" is the most discordant and interesting song on the album. Bells, pianos and acoustic guitars reign over a simpler, lo-fi drum track. Here, singer Jared Taber effortlessly dips in and out of falsetto before ringing in on the chorus, "We are all just passengers looking for a better life / Buried in the dark corners of our frail minds / Ticking clocks and masquerades are what we hide behind."
The most troublesome thing about "Masquerades" is its total lack of trouble. The album is so slick, it's hard to grip, and the tracks prove too smooth to hang onto. Like-minded bands like Vertical Horizon and Sugarcult proved similarly slippery.
Hooks have sharp barbs for a reason, but "Masquerades" should be bait enough for the guys to reel it in with their live show.
The album is available as a $5 digital download or a $10 CD. For more information, visit www.nysummermusic.com.'Joe Wertz