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by Dan Upton

Rains is one of those bands with a DIY ethic, taking full advantage of the internet and sites like MySpace to build up a grassroots following. Late 2005 saw their self-released debut Stories; they didn't meet their lofty goal of proving an unsigned band could have 10K presales, but in the 3 months since its release they've managed to push around 3000 units and have played and scheduled another show at the legendary CBGB. 

So, by this point, you're probably wondering, what's all the fuss?

The short answer is that the CD is full of fun, intelligent alternative rock. Although they started off in Indiana, they've relocated to Charlottesville, and as a band coming from Charlottesville with a lyrical style similar to a lot of singer-songwriters, there's probably an expectation of similarities to Dave Matthews. If you wrote them off right there though you would be doing a great disservice; while they include Dave in their influences, they also specifically cite bands like Tool, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, and Incubus. Despite a pretty constant presence of acoustic and clean electric guitars in the mix, there are lots of distorted parts, with a tone rather unlike any of their contemporaries and an indescribable heavy feeling on a lot of the songs. The closing song, "Sacrifice," opens with a strong acoustic groove that evokes Days of the New; for the rest of the songs, the easiest band to draw comparisons to would be the Goo Goo Dolls, but even that's a stretch. Realistically, they've managed to mix their influences but still come up with a unique sound. 

The lyrics on this CD cover a lot of territory but amount to, as you might expect from the title, stories about different people and their lives. "The Radio Song," for instance, talks about dreaming about having your chance at a hit song; this is offset nicely by the next track "The Story of David," about a homeless man who tried his best and didn't make it and is talking about how he's automatically judged even though people don't know anything about him. Another standout track is "One Day," which, to summarize, is about an abusive relationship with an even sadder twist at the end. Some of you might have noticed a running trend in my reviews that I don't care as much about lyrics, but this CD has some really powerful stuff on it. 

The only thing I can complain about really is that the vocal melodies seem very safe and consistent across the songs--there isn't a whole lot of variation. The harmonies and especially the solo female vocals from vocalist/pianist Jessica Schultz provide some spice to keep this from being a drag, but even so it was the one thing that jumped out at me the first time I listened to the CD. Then again, for a band to have this strong of a self-released debut, I think a minor thing like that can be forgiven. This band has some serious talent, and if they can keep up their momentum both as musicians and in building a following, I'd say they'll go places. Do yourself a favor and check them out now. 

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Rains - Stories


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