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Album review: R&B album unique with grunge tones

With the fall semester approaching quickly, students are hustling to get ready for classes and cooler weather. One of the most important items on the checklist is, of course, what music they’re going to study to.

Fans of R&B and Jazz may find “Under the Savage Sky,” the newest release from Barrence Whitfield and the Savages, moving its way up their “must buy” checklists.

“Under the Savage Sky” opens up with “Willow,” a fun, energetic song with heavy guitar riffs and deep, gritty vocals complete with background “oohs” and “ahs” to round out the sound.

From the first track, listeners will be able to tell this isn’t your average soulful R&B album. Though the elements are there, the Savages have added a grungy tone to the music that isn’t found in many records of this genre.

As it says on the band’s website, “‘Under the Savage Sky’ might be the most punk soul album you’ve ever heard.”

This tone lightens up a bit for the second track — my personal favorite — “I’m a Full Grown Man.” One who enjoys the classic music of the Blues Brothers may be reminded of their hit “Soul Man” while listening to this fast-paced, catchy song.

“I’m a man / I do what I want to do / Been that way my whole life through.” Listeners are lying to themselves if they deny relating to this line, and that’s what makes this song so fun.

The vocals of frontman Barrence Whitfield vary throughout the songs, from gritty to smooth. But by far the most entertaining is when he screeches out surprisingly well-executed high notes: it’s somewhat amusing to hear a man sing about being “a grown-ass man” in falsetto.

“Adjunct Street,” however, will silence anyone who makes fun of these high-pitched squeals. The depth of his voice combined with the hypnotic rhythm of the music will have listeners swaying in a trance to the beat of the song. Though it stands out drastically from the previous four songs, fans who appreciate an artist with variety will enjoy this heavier track.

“Angry Hands,” another outlier in this release, proves this album has a little something for everyone — or at least everyone who enjoys the general area surrounding jazz, R&B and soul. Listeners are not likely to find another album in which they get a slightly distorted saxophone solo.

Though the music is not impressive technically speaking, as each of the riffs and drum beats could easily be imitated by a middle school garage band, the simplicity of each song makes this record upbeat and easy to listen to. “Under the Savage Sky” is perfect for students’ background noise studying needs, but is also interesting enough to sit down and listen to attentively as well.

This soulful roller coaster ride of sounds concludes with “Full Moon in the Daylight Sky.” This heavier piece has a more solemn feel to the vocals, which contradict the low tones but fast beat of the music behind it. These contradicting flavors make for a delicious dessert to finish off a great meal — I mean, record.

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By the third listening, fans are sure to find themselves singing along to this heartfelt track about the harsh realities of life.

"Under the Savage Sky" will be available Aug. 21.

Skylar Griego is the culture editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @TDLBooks.

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