Artist: Anthony Raneri

Album: New Cathedrals

Label: Gumshoe Records

Rating: ★★★★☆

Review by: Bill Jones

Anyone who has heard Bayside, love or hate, can agree that Anthony Raneri’s songwriting and vocal style are unique. So a solo effort seems like the logical next step for the singer and songwriter, and Raneri launched an independent label earlier this year to release his first “solo” effort, New Cathedrals, a five-song EP.

Bayside has already gone acoustic, so the first question on everyone’s mind should be, “What does this offer that I’m not getting from a Bayside album?” And the simple answer is diversity. The core of the Bayside style is there, primarily because it is again Raneri’s unique approach taking center stage, and it is most evident in a track like “The Ballad of Bill The Saint,” which feels like it could have fit in on a Bayside album.

But the opening track, “Sandra Partial,” takes on a tinge of country, with a rolling rhythm and simple chorus. “Charleston” may be the biggest surprise, though, with a backbeat that grabs the listener from the start and a fantastic piano accompaniment. “Lead, Follow, Fall,” likewise surprises in a positive way with a funk-inspired bass rhythm. “Please Don’t Leave” rounds things out with some reggae influence, but what is more prominent is the stripped down nature of the song that makes it easy to picture Raneri driving a live sing-along to this track.

It’s a fun debut, with a few disappointments. To start, it’s only five tracks and over almost as soon as it starts. Raneri said the tracks were composed and filed away over the course of several years, so it’s a bummer that there’s not more in this first outing. The EP also touts guests from RX Bandits, Beat Union and My Chemical Romance, but they all seem relatively like non-factors on their respective tracks. Maybe it’s a good thing that they blend somewhat seamlessly into Raneri’s songs, but then why have them?

And as diverse as New Cathedrals is, at least in its departure from Bayside, Raneri’s not doing anything here totally out of left field. That will help fans who transition from Bayside to this, but it’s hard not to want to see Raneri stretch just that much farther into new territory. Still, it’s a solid debut solo effort, and fans or Bayside will find plenty to love in Raneri’s work here.

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Pads & Panels received a digital download of the album courtesy of the label for review purposes.