Music

Sandtimer – Yongo – 四五

Dedicated Vodka readers will remember Sandtimer from Vodka’s review of Dormant back in September 2019. As dark as those times were, 2020 has proven to be darker still, with Covid-19, political unrest, and dire headlines. Sandtimer’s music has the ability to highlight the world’s problems without making your blood pressure rise further. Enter Yongo (seen/heard here) the first single from the band’s soon-to-be-released long-player, Running In Sunlight, due out in just a couple of days (November 27, 2020). 

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Running In Sunlight was created with minimalist production, depending on sparse instrumentation and the band’s ever-present vocal harmonies to lend rhythm and mood to these eleven tracks. The time to record was compressed as well, leading to a more intimate and cohesive sound. Of the nine originals and two classic folk songs here, each ends up sounding as if they belong together. The marriage of instruments and voices blends perfectly to reveal the messages that the band wants to convey in each song.

Vocalist and guitarist Simon Thomas puts it this way: 

“This album isn’t about anthems. It’s our attempt at exploring the raw edges of the climate we live in-the uncomfortable parts as well as the beauty. We wanted to give ourselves space to do this intimately and honestly.”

In Vodka’s view, the attempt is more than successful! 

Within these tracks, are the tug and pull of world over person, a dichotomy firmly emphasized on the lead-off track, Changes:

“These are changes that break your world in two,
crowding over the things you wanted to do.
Pressure building in your heart to take the easy route-
give them something to admire and leave nothing for you.”

We’ve all been there more than a time or two, doing something for everyone else but us. The instruments here are flawless, a perfectly executed folk melody and harmonies that don’t overshadow the lead vocal, but are absolutely beautiful.

Second is the slightly more up-beat folk romp of You Never Had Control. Up-beat, but still a testament to speaking out politically and having your voice crushed by those you hoped would actually lead:

“Sitting, wondering how it happened all again
you feel you didn’t do enough to help
while they cash in all their promises, stolen and sold
just remember that you never had control“

Three Cars explores a life devoted to keeping up appearances, working hard to have everything your neighbors and contemporaries have, only to miss out on the important things: your family, your wife, your own sanity. Yongo (above), explores those who would covet war as if it were some sort of a glamorous ideal that you are missing out on in life. It’s sad to think that there are so many people who, today, fall into this camp. Ah, “You angry, war-hungry men.” Different Seas takes a look at the familiar theme of broken relationships when things have gone so wrong that you live in different worlds. There’s so much beauty and heart-wrenching humanity here that it overflows emotions.

Throughout these eleven tracks, the instrumentation is sparse but full enough to completely fill any void. Tinkling keys, picked guitars, the rhythms of voices and instruments alone. In the case of this collection of thoughtful and thought-provoking melodies and lyrics, each provides its own percussion, with normal drummer Alex Jackson contributing rhythms to just two tracks. I’m promised that this change is temporary.

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Sandtimer is the brain-child of leader, primary song-writer, co-producer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Robert Sword. He leads a group of super talented, dedicated musicians and singers, Simon Thomas (vocals, guitar, euphonium), Rachel Thomas (vocals), and last but not least, the previously mentioned Alex Jackson (percussion). Without the total of these talents, Sandtimer’s sound would not be complete! As an added bonus,  Running In Sunlight benefits from guest musician Hamilton Gross’ violin on You Never Had Control and Cynical As Me.

As always, you can find more information on Sandtimer by heading up to their simple but complete website. The social links are there at the top of the main page. The Music section links back to the band’s bandcamp.com site, but lists each offering from there. A nice touch. This link also includes streaming options from both Spotify and the aforementioned bandcamp.com sites, another nice element. 

Sandtimer writes serious indie-folk music for modern times, without compromising the integrity of their sound or writing milk-toast pieces. Their music is both challenging and soothing, a way to explore the problems of the world without adding to your angst. With that said, I think it is appropriate to quote one more lyric here, Empty. This song looks at the battles of bands to stay alive and certainly, that is even more true in 2020 than it was in 2019:

“Sitting with an empty coffee cup
reading about bands that have given up
Wondering when they knew that it was time to stop
Watching the sunlight and rain, rolling round again

What have I found after five fast years?
That nothing’s ever final despite my hopes and fears
That things always move slower before they break away
and leave you there just wondering if you missed a chance to say
you needed help.“

That is a statement that is worth reading and re-reading. Sandtimer’s struggle to be heard, in both an industry and a world has gone mad, is nothing to trifle with.  Pick up some Sandtimer music now and watch for the (digital-only) release of Running In Sunlight in just two days!

Note: With Covid-19 still around, probably to be with us for some time, artists like Sandtimer and many others need your purchases to keep their heads above water. If your situation allows it, consider purchasing more in these tough times. –Vodka