Across The Board took its name from the multi-instrumental talents and diverse backgrounds of the core members – from classic rock, folk and country sounds. Using bass ukelele and mandolin, to cello, electric guitar, alternative percussion (Cajon, Djembe) and all sorts of acoustic guitars and shaky things, ATB will strum, hit, blow, hammer or bang on anything that will make a musical sound. ‘Jane On Fire’, the band’s latest album project, “weaves a story of love lost and found,” says the band, “and the need to be truthful to oneself before all else.”
The Toronto (Canada) based Across The Board is (vocals, strings, keys, percussion), Parry Nitchos (vocals, lead guitar), Andy Ramjattan (bass guitar, percussion), Paul Nanuwa (vocals, percussion, strings) and Martin Heller (vocals, strings, keys).
Across The Board’s sound is a nice throwback compared to many of the over-produced, vocally-massaged tracks that we get nowadays. It gives a vibe of the classic 70’s folk-rock band sound, with all joining into the vocal choruses, giving the songs a fuller sound rather than having a single singer endlessly layered. You’ll probably find yourself involuntarily singing along with the catchy, ear-wormesque songs with an alternative urban edge.
‘Jane On Fire’ by ATB is not an overly complex record but its simplicity adds to its charm. A little bit of rock and a little bit of alt-country, it wears its influences on its sleeve. Almost like a fine wine, you can distinguish the key ingredients as you swish it around in your mouth and after giving this album a listen or two, you can taste the influences. Since I reviewed the band in 2014 they have certainly added a harder rock edge into their arrangements with some crunchy guitar riffs and tones.
And the band make this clear, right from the opening track, “Indifference”, which is also the album’s lead single. The sprawling guitars continue with “Take Those Pictures Off The Wall”, “One Way Ticket Down” where the riffing becomes almost adrenaline-rushing.
Most bands aren’t necessarily trying to re-invent the wheel and Across The Board are no different – although they just make sure it’s turning full cycle all the time. The songs on this album are so strong and singer, Jacqueline Auguste offers the perfect delivery. While the tonal qualities of her voice may present a familiar recollection, the annunciations are very unique often times remind me just how much a voice can contribute greatly to the instrumentation of an arrangement.
Musically you can expect dynamic, lush and organic arrangements with layered keyboard sounds, swirling guitars, catchy melodies and vocal tracks in which co-producers Jacqueline Auguste and Parry Nitchos have crafted the perfect retro-futuristic feel.
Head to tail, this album doesn’t miss a beat and Across The Board’s sound transcends that of their genre-contemporaries, whom most of the time sound like melancholic crooners in an acute state of depression. Even treating serious themes of loss and missed opportunities, ATB manages to stay composed, light and sprightly allowing their sweet harmonic hooks to enchant your ears.
Just listen to “Echoes of You” and “Don’t Cross That Line” which are both about broken relationships, while “Sad Guitar” and “Loving Cold”, looks at lonely hearts, yet they succeed in keeping their musical heads above the murky waters, and without the melodramatics.
Once in a while all this music world needs is a band to just simply cut it up. Across The Board just let it out, without coming off as too tedious or annoyingly coy. How many bands do you know that can sound so familiar and simple, yet different and complex? Listen to this album with headphones at full volume. The instruments, the harmonies, the melodies, the moods, and the vocals will blow your mind.