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“Music is what powers the soul. We make the music. We are engineering the soul.” – Jake Grigg
Engineering The Soul is the stunning new album from Something With Numbers. Beyond an exhilarating listening experience, this third full-length effort signals an emphatic coming-of-age for the quintet, and redemption for their front man, Jake Grigg.
Formed on the Central Coast of New South Wales seven years ago, Something With Numbers – Lachlan Scott (guitar), Dave McBeath (drums), Tim Crocker (guitar), Scott Chapman (bass) and Jake Grigg (vocals) – have built their success from the ground up. Largely unburdened by hype, their unique melodic rock vision was developed through 2002’s Barnicles And Stripes EP and the 2004 full-length Etiquette, which solidified their loyal fanbase while allowing them space to grow as songwriters, musicians and human beings.
In 2006, everything changed, as Something With Numbers found themselves rocketed to an unprecedented position thanks to their inspired second album, Perfect Distraction, and its impossibly catchy lead single “Apple Of The Eye (Lay Me Down)”. Buoyed by favourable critical reaction and boosted by major FM radio play, the group enhanced their reputation as an explosive live unit, undertaking a relentless tour regime that included a whirlwind 45-date headlining blitz. Further vindication arrived in the form of a 2007 ARIA Award nomination for “Breakthrough Artist”, while outside of the band, charismatic frontman Jake was recruited by music television station Channel [V] as one of the co-presenters of its “Rock Room” program.
But success, they say, can be a double-edged sword. And just as all the hard slog and personal sacrifice was finally paying off, so was the pressure taking a critical toll. Beginning in August 2007, ‘Numbers spent several months on the road with Grinspoon while also performing select dates with Silverchair and Powderfinger on their joint Across The Night Tour. A little over halfway through the stint, Jake suffered a meltdown, as personal and professional pressures manifested themselves into an overwhelming emotional episode that left him in a near-catatonic state.
At his lowest ebb and with much of his confidence stripped away, the singer found salvation in songwriting. Throwing himself into writing Engineering The Soul, he had soon turned emotional agony into pure pop ecstasy. Though Jake says the album’s title was a phrase that came to him in a dream and symbolises the group’s role as music makers – “Music is what powers the soul. We make the music. We are engineering the soul,” he explains – it could just as easily be interpreted as a metaphor for his own personal re-awakening.
Kicking off this year with a strengthened resolve, Something With Numbers delivered some memorable main-stage appearances at Big Day Out ’08 before converging upon Mission Sound Studios, Brooklyn, New York in March for a nine-week recording and mixing stint. Living together in The Big Apple and working under respected producer Tim O’Heir (Dinosaur Jr., All American Rejects, Say Anything), the five-piece were inspired to push their talents to dizzying new heights. Opening emphatically with the mature-sounding first single “Stay With Me Bright Eyes”, Engineering The Soul continually redefines the Something With Numbers sound.
“It’s All Going To Happen Again” features a laidback jazzy swing rhythm and a chorus of finger snaps. “We’ll Fight” is a Motown-influenced epic utilising a horn section consisting of members of Amy Winehouse and Sharon Jones’ backing band, The Dap Kings. “Twisted” is a ballsy, emotive rock number with paint-stripping guitar work, “Diamonds” an ambitious ballad with lush, multi-tracked vocals and delicate piano strokes. “89 Freedom Street” is a bop-along bubblegum anthem with a hook obvious enough to embed itself in your brain eternally, while “Seventeen Places” is a stabbing, hard-edged pop rock assault with the suggestive refrain, “I once touched a girl in seventeen places!” Topping it all off is closer “Ill Be There”, a love song stripped-bare, recorded during a breathtaking studio moment with Jake and guest pianist John Deley performing together side-by-side.
“When we started writing for this record we thought to ourselves, what do we really want to achieve from a record? And what I thought was that what we really wanted to do is get inside people’s heads,” claims Jake.
Engineering The Soul will not only get inside people’s heads; it will touch their hearts, make them dance for joy and get them screaming for more. Alive with rock energy, bursting with pop melody and void of all filler, you won’t hear a more ambitious, assured, accomplished, unique and sincere album this year.
Engineering The Soul is out August through Below Par/EMI on September 6, 2008
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