"The Band with the Magic Touch" (Lamplighter Magazine)

Lamplighter Magazine (New Jersey Arts & Culture Magazine); Published Monday, October 31st, 2014

Lamplighter Magazine (New Jersey Arts & Culture Magazine); Published Monday, October 31st, 2014

Everyone knows that the New Jersey music scene is filled with awesome musicians from Hoboken to Asbury Park, and every city and town in between. However, there seems to be a concentration of bands and artists rocking around the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick. Rutgers students are always looking for a good ear massage and Sara is one of the many artists that has the magic touch and some really good lavender-scented body oils to get the job done.

Just to clarify, Sara is not a singer singer/songwriter project featuring a solo female vocalist; it is a three-piece band based in New Brunswick. Michael Schwab shreds the guitar, Gil Turetsky makes the bass groove, Vince O’Donnell makes those cymbals crash, and they all hop on the mics to belt out the lyrics. These three pool together their wide variety of influences that include Fugazi, Pavement, Radiohead, Third Eye Blind, and several other bands, to create a musical style of their own. Sara has a hard time fitting in any one genre. It is safe  just to call them a rock band and allow the fans to make their own interpretations and apply personal sub-genres and additional adjectives. The self-titled LP, “Sara,” released in April of 2011, is the band’s first attempt at a full release. They also have two well-received EPs under their belt, “Sad, Sad, Sad” and “Arts & Sciences.”

“Sara” is an ambitious album that shows the diversity of music this genre-less band can create. Schwab creates some fitting, crunchy distortion, O’Donnell constantly pushes the song forward and never lets the beat drop with his impressive drum work, and Turetsky creates some of the most satisfying bass licks I have ever heard. The tunes have a nice sense of fluctuation throughout the album, from soft and vulnerable to in-your-face-rock. Each song also has that stand-alone feel, making it seem like any song can qualify as a single. Finally, the songs blend familiar and fresh qualities making the songs feel like that guy on the bus who might be your good friend from high school. This sense of vague familiarity coupled with bold experimentation is the charm behind Sara’s music. Stand-out tracks include “Medical Pot,” “Kids,” and “Automatic.” If I may lobby one complaint at the album, the vocal parts sometimes border on incoherence, causing confusion about the lyrics and meanings of songs.

Sara has this almost magical ability of seamlessly blending various elements into a smooth musical concoction. Now, if you are thinking, “Wow, you’ve presented this wonderful bowl of ice cream, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream in front of me,” then let me add that delicious, scarlet cherry: this album is absolutely FREE. Simply go to their Band Camppage, enter you e-mail address and ZIP code, pick the audio file format of choice, and you have yourself over 30 minutes of quality entertainment. You also get a free PDF copy of the lyrics, resolving any issues about the vocal parts I had earlier with the album.

If you dig the album, then you should definitely check out Sara in their natural environment: melting faces in New Brunswick basements. On Saturday, November 12th, Sara will be rocking with Brunswick buddies Holy City ZooNeur, and Man on Fire at Gnar City. Edgewood, a band traveling up to New Jersey from Washington DC, will also be destroying ear drums at the event. The show kicks off at 6:00 pm and there is a suggested $5 cover donation. More details can be found on the Facebook Event page.

“Sara” is definitely an album worth your valuable time and consideration. It’s quite different from most offerings, but I encourage lending this pioneer album your ear for a few minutes and let it works its magic. It just might be a happy ending.