All Points North, the third studio album from Upstate’s Formula 5, is a beautiful listen. The band are masters of melody. Though they change from theme to theme often, every seperate musical idea is rich and rewarding. Many songs feature multiple central ideas which the group skillfully glues into its own brand of ear candy. Despite shifting tempos and constant phrase altering, the melody never gets lost and it is always captivating. Gorgeous more often than not.
Opener “Come Along” with its fun groove and positive energy is the album at its most direct. Keyboardist Matt Richards bombards the song with organ blasts left and right as if in dire competition with its very memorable vocal line. “Sad Bed” with its slow burning intro and mix of contained noodling and vibrant jive sounds like Junta era Phish. Here, guitarist Joe Davis takes listeners to new heights with his feisty shredwork and blaring ambition before the band reels it in with refined restraint. “Trout Waters Part I and II” starts as dirty, grimy funk before transcending into an almost musical equivalent of Flight of the Icarus. The melody is powerful and suggests ascension or searching of some kind. It is only enhanced by the guest appearance of horn section Phillipe Chow and Bryan Brundige whose playing recalls Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain.
“Excalibur,” the most anthemic track, features bassist James Woods’ chasing the guitar and keyboards with effective, pulsing melancholy. The band spend a near ten minutes of wrestling between inspired fretwork beauty and soothing key strokes before locking into a crunchy breakdown resembling the heyday of Rage Against the Machine. Drummer Greg Marek spends “The Birch Tree” teasing his cymbals as if they were being brushed by a gentle breeze. The listener can easily imagine napping in a hammock under tree of such name due to the song’s calm temper and soft demeanor. “Do Tell” is a fine slice of jazz-rock fusion that sounds like Steely Dan playing a number at last call in a futuristic cocktail lounge.
No matter if reaching for the stars in true jam rock fashion or embracing downtempo sensuality, Formula 5 always remain loyal to its sense of melody on All Points North. This fact, in combination with its sizeable scope and amount of variety, make this a very satisfying listen. A highly recommended release for sure. An early contender for album of the year even. I can’t wait to hear how these songs translate live. I am confident they become even more beautiful when given room to grow and expand. Get this!
Author: Colin Seymour