What the Kitty Dragged in: Shannon and the Clams!

Shannon Shaw, Cody Blanchard, and Nate Mahan Photo by Nadia Lee Cohen
Ok, I know everyone’s reaction to overcomplicated music genres. If some music snob (ie. probably anyone on Rowdy Radio’s Stream Team) comes up to you and starts spouting off about a 50’s doo-wop 80’s garage punk 60’s girl group-esque surf goth, you might roll your eyes. But think for a second that genres aren’t contained by a list, and are instead drawn across a spectrum blending together and form infinite possibilities, with genres being born and dying out every single day. Also imagine that the music snob is me and the band with the aforementioned genres is Shannon and the Clams.

For this blog, I’m going to be reviewing their newest album: Gone By the Dawn. But first, a little bit about Shannon and the Clams. They’re a little band from Oakland, consisting of Shannon Shaw, Cody Blanchard, and Nate Mahan. All things considered, they are a garage punk band, though like I mentioned before, they apply a lot of different and interesting elements to their sound. "Ozma" is an excellent example of their sound. It's based around a very defined 50's diner kind of theme, but with obvious punk influence and surf-y instrumentation. And the vocals? Stellar. Shannon's voice is powerful enough as it is, but the added voice modulations and killer back-up harmonies by Cody Blanchard really send the song through the roof.

Courtesy of Band Camp
Gone by the Dawn dropped earlier in September, and oh man, it's a breakup album. But unlike albums such as Another One and Pillow Talk (two essential albums for any breakup), Gone by the Dawn actually follows not one, but two splits. The songs kind of switch between each narrator, creating an intense feeling that you can't quite escape the heart-break, no matter how hard you try. As far as sad albums go, this one is a doozy. Be prepared for thinking of the one who got away.

The first song, "I Will Miss the Jasmine," fades in with an anxious, hurried pace. Shannon's vocals are thrilling, and the lyrics of the song are immediately very specific and personal, reflecting on bundles of jasmine and the tiniest petals in her room. This song sets the tone for the album as a whole: reflective and personal, but still catchy as can be. Cody gets to show off his incredible voice in "My Man," and my favorite track on the album "Telling Myself." Cody and Shannon singing together on this album really confused me at first, since I thought that Cody's singing was just Shannon's in a higher register. Instead, the two complement each other perfectly, like on the song "Baby Blue." If you're stumped on your Halloween Playlist for your party later this month (like 99% of college students at the moment), then you'll be happy to hear "The Bog," with it's spooky atmosphere and its talk about witches singing in a swamp.

Really cool 3D photography of
Shannon Shaw and her sparkly
 bass. courtesy of Trevor Crump
It's really hard to talk about songs I like off of this album without listing off the majority of the tracks! But I think the song that really shines on this album is "Point of Being Right." I like to compare this song to "Heads or Tails" off of their last album, Dreams in the Rat House, because I think it really shows how Shannon and the Clams has improved from one album to the next. The vintage aspect of their music sometimes lead to motifs like campy back-up vocals and repetitive lyrical patterns. The background vocals in "Heads or Tails" are a little too breathy, and are sometimes hard to hear over the other parts of the song. But "Point of Being Right's" back-up vocals are deeper for Shannon, emphasizing her lovely tenor-esque tone, instead of putting her in an uncomfortable sounding range. They mix in some of Cody's higher pitched vocals to create a blend that brings out the best of both voices.

A small complaint might be that some of the background vocals were a bit repetitive, to the point where they could get a little distracting. This could just be a matter of personal preference though, so don't let it deter you from checking them out.

Gone By the Dawn is emotionally packed, but ultimately hopeful. It's definitely one you might get teary eyed to, but the campy up-beatness of the songs will keep you from totally breaking down. What makes this album great to me is the fact that it weaves its story through songs that are up-beat and at times, even triumphant. At the end of all of the drama, there is still a reason to dust ourselves off, to look to tomorrow, and to say that we can't blame the one's we love for seeking a new start.

You can get their new album here. I ordered mine on a sweet green and cream vinyl, and I'm super excited to see what it looks like! Also, at their show last weekend, a member of our Stream Team met Shannon Shaw, who then donated Gone By the Dawn to our music library! Make sure to give Shannon and the Clams a listen this week!