Six years ago, a little band from California grabbed my attention with a car commercial for the Pontiac Torrent. Little did I know that 30 seconds would blossom into a six-year love affair. The featured track “Struggle” was from Ringside’s self-titled debut album and showed exactly what dedicated individuals can do with music. While the Torrent may have come and gone, Ringside has not, and after six years of waiting, on Jan. 25 their second album was released. It’s nice to know that a band that was once featured on TV has not lost their sound or fallen by the wayside.
“Lost Days” is the second album by Ringside; also known as the duo of singer/songwriter Scott Thomas and producer and occasional TV actor Balthazar Getty. The album successfully avoids the dreaded sophomore slump, usually when a band’s second album sounds worse than their initial release. The best way to describe Ringside’s sound is indie rock infused with electronic beats, but each track subtly pulls in elements from numerous genres and crafts them in such a way that gives Ringside a sound that is uniquely their own.
Creative genius Scott Thomas’s lyrics are catchy and refined, yet they don’t feel like they were written with radio play in mind. This makes sense when you consider that Thomas (a former fashion designer who sold all his possessions in order to jump start his music career) literally broke his back mid-way through production. The extra time spent away from instruments can really be heard in the lyrics on the track “Love In the Asylum.”
While the whole album is a treat from start to finish, there are, of course, a few standout tracks. “Freedom,” starts off with the perfect blend of gritty vinyl sound effects, heavy hip-hop beats and big band horns. Thomas’s blaring chorus line is matched perfectly by the back-up singers and his voice is powerful enough to almost hide the 8-bit drum machine that plays during the bridge, which then seamlessly transitions into the glimmering Spanish guitars that carry out the rest of the song.
“Stronger” is a throwback to Thomas’s own struggles with the arduous recording process. Fears of losing his voice and falling out of his muse can be heard in the guitars that are knee deep in the muddy sound of American blues. Once the verse becomes unmuffled, the banjos fuse with lyrics like “trapped in the trenches, no sign of a hero,” to hark back to Thomas’ days of touring with Ben Harper and selling bootleg CDs out of a tent to pay for food.
“Lost Days” is a hidden treasure of indie music. Unlike other indie albums the tracks sound polished and can be listened to all the way through without instilling any urge to skip. With Ringside collaborating with folk artist Ben Harper, Brian Bell of rock band Weezer, and funk ensemble Ozomotli, it won’t be long before this band becomes too mainstream for the hipsters to handle.