Review by Kevin Mathews
Accomplished. Professional. Competent.
These are the adjectives that come to mind when listening to New Jersey-based band Novae. Based on this debut EP, it is clear that Novae, despite being a relatively new outfit, are not novices at the musical game. Information from its official biography bears this out. Vocalist/keyboardist/songwriter Rich Genoval and guitarist Mark Scandariato, who form the backbone of Novae, are accomplished musicians in their own rights. Genoval has actually sung the national anthem at Madison Square Garden and Prudential Center sporting events whilst Scandariato is a music veteran having toured with artists such as Bob Dylan, Kenny Aronoff, The Spin Doctors, Hootie & The Blowfish, Charlie Sexton, Lisa Loeb, and many more.
The proof of their impressive collective experience is evident on One. The combination of Genoval's silky larynx and Scandariato's rich talented fretwork on Genoval's knowing material makes for a pleasurable pop-rock listening experience. Genoval's own influences lean more towards soul/R&B (for example, Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, Al Green and BoyzIIMen)m while Scandariato's experience has mainly been in the pop-rock arena. This allows Novae to develop an intriguing sound hybrid that combines the strengths of both immensely popular genres. Therefore, the music on One is not defined by any particular musical epoch and seems able to traverse the entire history of rock and pop music, stretching back to the 1960’s.
The opening track, "Reading," recalls the melodic dynamism of the Beatles in its arrangements, whilst its tune itself channels the late Michael Jackson. It’s a potent combination. The chorus utilizes a literary metaphor to highlight the difficulties of intimacy within relationships. "Reading from your book/Reading every line/Searching for an answer/But the questions multiply." The serious tone of "Broken Days" echoes the news headlines of the day, as peace is offered through the balm of music. With a wistful tune that communicates the lyrical direction, "Broken Days" provides a fine balance between rock and soul, and between spiritual and carnal concerns. "Who have I become and who have I ever been/Where has the passion gone," Genoval asks the questions that have dogged the human race for eons and continues to do so in these modern times.
This spiritual cause becomes more distinct as each song unfolds into the next. Thus, on the title track, an allusion is made to a higher power. "I'll be one," Genoval declares, as the music envelops and develops the proper emotional tone in order for Genoval to connect with his audience. It's pretty hard not to associate this "One" with another similarly spiritually themed song of the same name. One would guess that U2's "One" is a definite inspiration here.
The last two songs on One,"Away From Me" and "Bring It Down," continue Novae's good work with mature songwriting, excellent performances and of course pristine production. The former has classic rock greatness written all over it with a killer chorus hook that will get listeners head bopping and ultimately singing along, which is no mean feat in a cynically tuneless age. The latter begins with the remark, “like a hip hop version of ‘When the Levee Breaks,’” as smooth electric piano chords and a wah-wah-ed shiny guitar wafts into hearing range. That opening comment actually makes sense, as there is a very vital bluesy-soulful vibe that rings through lustily as Genoval sings in the chorus. "Oh let it rain/bring on the hurt/bring on the pain/bring it down hard" illuminates the proceedings once again with his distinctive voice.
The One EP closes with a remix of "Broken Days", introducing strings into the equation, which brings a different emotional resonance to a song that has so much already going for it. It may be considered superior to the original mix by many.
There's little doubt that music lovers will have much to savor on this well crafted debut EP. Novae is one band to keep a close eye on.
Review by Kevin Mathews
Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)