Last night, under the sprawling white tent of Arts Fest—pulsating with purple lights and thundering applause—Juice debuted their first, self-titled studio album to a crowd of eager fans.
Paying homage to their roots, Juice returns to their formative years when they claimed victory in the Battle of the Bands of 2014 and 2015. Instead of competing this year, however, the well established veterans, now juniors, put on a special album release performance following the announcement of the winner. Regardless of having won or lost, all the competitors looked on with optimism as Juice beckoned them forward with promises of similar glory.
The band, comprised of Ben Stevens (Vocals), Kamau Burton (Acoustic Guitar/Vocals), Christian Rougeau (Violin/Vocals), Dan Moss (Guitar), Miles Clyatt (Drums), Chris Vu (Keyboard), Rami El-Abidin (Bass) and Michael Ricciardulli (Guitar), possesses a far more socially mature sound than they once did as a motley crew of lanky freshmen. This past summer, the band committed to playing and writing music full time, allowing them to move into a sphere of maturity and functionality inhabited by precious few other ensembles on campus.
The album kicks off with the previously released single “Shoot Me Down,” a funky number that opens softly with a gritty keyboard riff, building gradually into a pleading chorus: “Don’t let her shoot me down, Beretta!” Above all else, this track serves as an excellent centerpiece of all things Juice—the mature vocal tone of Stevens, which harkens back to jazz-era crooners, the penetrating and borderline screeching effect of Rougeau’s violin, the soulful keyboard licks of Vu, the punchy bass of El-Abidin, and the funky wah-wah guitar licks of Ricciardulli, among others.
The next track, “Gold,” also previously released, is a foot-stomping crowd pleaser, showcasing a catchy guitar groove grounded in the driving character of the drums. Stevens demonstrates particularly versatile vocal ability in his transitions from quick paced spoken delivery to falsetto. Lyrically, the song reinforces the crowd-pleasing groove: “Yeah we step in the club and we’re blowing up the show. Put your hands up if you’re all about that gold!”
“Look My Way” slows things down as more of a ballad in nature than the previous tracks. Vu’s striking keyboard skills create a echoing soundscape that allow Stevens to shine through with a demonstration of gentle falsetto: “I saw you walking, the type of walk that kept the whole town talkin’. I just hoped you’d look my way.” With a slow evolution, gradually the guitar and strings join in, climaxing in a slightly more upbeat, distinctly Juice sound.
Juice re-enters their funky comfort zone with “Thrones”—a quick spitting, rapid-fire rap number further accentuated by the synchronized riffing of the piano and guitar. Juice is in peak form as the track escalates, and cries of “yahhh” from the band reinforce the punch line bars of Rougeau: “I’m King of the Juice, Tropicana Messiah.”
Similarly to “Look My Way,” “Need You To Wait” opens quietly with gentle, acoustic piano backed vocals. The similarities continue, however, and the song picks up quickly after only a minute of this mellow tone. Although the groove they revert to is certainly high quality, it would be refreshing to see what Juice could do if they kept things mellow and slightly acoustic for longer before reverting back to their funky, violin heavy comfort zone.
While their music has always flitted back and forth between hip-hop, funk, and rock, Juice demonstrates a firm command over these various influences as the band blends them together with an effortlessness that could only be regarded as professional. Impressively, for a band with such an eclectic degree of influence, they have successfully established a sound that is distinctly “Juice-y.” As their maturation undoubtedly continues and the group becomes more versatile, it's clear that Juice certainly has big things in store.
Be sure to get your own free download of the album here.