Review: Stranger – World Underground

Review: Stranger – World Underground

Stranger – World Underground
Track Listing:
1.) Believe
2.) Go Leave
3.) Hand In Hand
4.) Royalty
5.) Best Part
6.) Life Line
7.) My Angel
8.) Body Connection
9.) Under Control
10.) Harmonize
11.) Gente
12.) People Going By
13.) World Underground

The Pier Album Rating:

Release Date: July 12th, 2011
Official Website: Stranger Website

Artist Background:
With an EP and full length album already circulating through the market, the SoCal rockers have worked hard to develop not only a conscious message but a fundamental roots reggae vibe in the composition of their work. Their newest release World Underground encompasses four years of growth claiming that their inspiration comes directly from their surroundings and experiences. The Seven members of Stranger collectively exercise their talents to import and synchronize elements from several genres such as jazz, soul, ska, and reggae.

Since their time at Southwestern College in 2002, the group has self-produced two albums and an EP of all original reggae tunes. After gaining plenty of recognition for their 2007 release, Stranger has earned a spot on the same stage as a number of nationally and internationally recognized reggae and roots sets such as Eek-A-Mouse, Barrington Levy, Katchafire, Groundation, and Rebelution. Following the release of World Underground, Stranger will hit the road both around the nation and abroad.

Album Review:
Stranger’s west coast background surely has an influence on their mindsets throughout the production of World Underground. As you may know, some of the most popular contemporary roots and reggae groups have arisen from the pacific region such as New Zealand, Australia, and Hawaii. Stranger’s echoic and spacey harmonies and forward-looking messages that seemingly portray love and individuality beam the same feelings of ease and relaxation to my ears and mind.

World Underground does not really deviate inclusively in structure. Sure there are some pocket-sized variations in drum patterns and in some other musical facets but overall the vital differences are in tempo and how energetic a given song is. A part of nearly every reggae vibe is the skanking rhythm, which is apparent in nearly every song on the album at some point. Especially in today’s world of stylistic hybrids, reggae groups often add supporting instruments whether it is a looping guitar riff or horns segment. No matter what form the compliment to the rhythm and harmony is in, Stranger executes it in a mellow way.

The album begins in a hazy dub-like fashion, with so much echo and reverb that you can almost not separate instrument from instrument. The first song Believe is not matched in intensity throughout the album as the dub breaks into a frisky verse about finding inspiration to stand up for your values. Although I consider lead singer David Ornelas to have a stellar and accurate voice, it doesn’t really shine through until the second track and onward.

Hand in Hand features a good helping of vocal harmonies and dreamy effects. With a saxophone quietly defending any potential bare spot of the chorus, Lead Singer David Ornelas sings, “Can’t be livin’ for our self, ‘cuz we’ll never live at all.” Love and personal relationships are two very peculiar topics to Stranger in World Underground. I also enjoy My Angel which is loaded with reverb, vocal harmony, and progressive keyboard riffs. Lyrically, it is a token of appreciation to that special someone who has endured through good times and bad, in the relationship.

My favorite is Harmonize, a song with a bouncy rhythm about discovering a compromise between personal differences or problems. While some of the songs give off a dreamier island vibe with the support of multiple sound effects, Stranger accented the offbeat keyboard rhythm in Harmonize which in effect, provides the drums with a heavier emphasis.

Stranger did a great job mixing it up between dampened major scale chords and spicy progressions and riffs in the entirety of World Underground. There is something catchy about nearly every song, whether it be the people-minded messages or the harmonies created by each instrumental layer.

Written & Reviewed by: Matt Emodi

[Editors Note: All reviews are reflective of the album in it’s entirety, from start to finish. These reviews are the honest opinion of each writer/reviewer, expressing their feedback as a genuine fan of the music. Each star rating reflects their review of the album, not the band. Music is subjective. Regardless of the review or star rating, we encourage you to listen to the music yourself & form your own opinion. Spread the awareness of all music in its art & contribution]