Well, Juice has arrived, finally. The self-titled debut album from the two-time Battle of the Bands champs, eight piece outfit is here. Released in casual conjunction with Arts Fest (the event with the big white tents), Juice’s Juice is part culmination, part celebration of where the band launched its first major musical concoction (Arts Fest, circa 2014), and where that mixture has come from there—in the form of its titular Juice.
Juice is a delightfully textured album, mixing three voices, two guitars, an electric violin, drums, bass, and keys. It walks, runs, and skips. It’s got pop, jazz, and hip hop. It’s a collection Juice has been touting for two years now, from the earlier “Where I Wanna to Be” to the more recent “BCY.” Produced by Mike Davidson, whose credits include St. Vincent, Regina Spektor, and Ghostface Killah, Juice captures much of the band’s live show in a bottle, a tall task considering the rising crescendos most songs reach at the end, “Pineapple Groove” being an example.
The band’s name is a fitting allusion to its own varied composition of the talents of Ben Stevens, lead vocals and CSOM ’18, Kamau Burton, acoustic guitar and vocals and MCAS ’17, Christian Rougeau, violin and vocals and MCAS ’18, Daniel Moss, guitar and MCAS ’17, Miles Clyatt, drums and MCAS ’17, Chris Vu, keyboard and MCAS ’17, Rami El-Abidin, bass, and Michael Ricciardulli, guitar and MCAS ’17.
Among several central threads, Juice seems to be about aspiration, and girls—you know, as most songs are. Juice is just fun, but it also converses with itself in an interesting way. The set-closing anthem “Where I Wanna Be” is about projecting “a place so far away.” And just two tracks later, we arrive at “BCY,” a song that basically describes that perfect, fleeting day, that urges you to “feel the sand between your toes / let the music in your soul / Can you dig it, dig babe?” Side note: No one, including Shaquille O’Neal or Cyrus has ever said “can you dig it?” better than Ben Stevens.
Soon, “BCY” makes a turn itself. After a strumming interlude, Burton comes in with, “rebirth, renew, let loose, sit back cuz you gotta live your life.” It’s a move that occurs in a lot of Juice songs. In a normal song, as you might learn in the first lecture of a Music Theory class, there’s “the bridge”—the last verse that’s a bit different than the others, before the song walks back the other way for the last chorus. You’ve listened to music before.
But a Juice bridge, usually around the three minute mark (most Juice songs approach five), more than dips its toes in a new form. It’s more like a sequel that can affirm, complicate, respond, or reprise the tension through the first part of the song or even a previous song. “Where I Wanna Be” doubles down on its optimism. Juice doesn’t really do irony. It’s part of its charm. “Gold” explodes into a violin solo. In a lot of aspects, “Gold” is Juice at its most confident.
“Need You to Wait” and “How You Gonna Do Me Like That” are sister songs in an even clearer way. “Need You to Wait” is a ballad driven by Stevens, who has range but also an inherent richness to his voice. He can cover Sam Smith and Amy Winehouse with equal aplomb. Here, Stevens sings of an awakening of sorts, the moment you want to tell the person you like, “hey I like you.” And at the turn, Burton comes in with “I remember how it used to be” and his own verse. It’s actually an echo from the turn of “How You Gonna Do Me Like That,” a song written earlier but that appears later on the album.
“How You Gonna Do Me Like That” is kind of like a fireside chat about the ladies. Burton, Rougeau, and even a few guests try to one up each other. But at the turn, things slow down to a jazzier pace. Burton comes in again with “I remember how it used to be / you and me making love endlessly” And this time Stevens echoes. And they play some call and response. Vu and Rougeau play them off in a striking contrast to the bombastic to which the song starts.
These are the moments and interactions between songs that show an album that’s having a whole lot of fun but also revising itself as it goes along. It’s a precise and accomplished composition. The band, too, has finally taken a turn.
You can now get your Juice experience in the comfort of your own home/dorm. And Juice isn’t perfect. Its instincts are usually to go big, and while Juice does live in this expansive fusion of sound, the band is often at its best when it makes a turn into a quieter place. But if the band does one thing live that it replicates here, it makes you feel good. Juice is about good vibes. And Juice is no different.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor