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Star of All Stars (EP)
Artist: Waiting for Cadence
Independent Release (2008)
4 tracks / 15:38 minutes
As hard to fathom as it may be for those born in the years since Ronald Reagan left the Oval Office, there was a time when died-in-the-wool music lovers had to hop on their trusty ten-speeds and truck down to the corner store to pick up the latest issue of Rolling Stone or Hit Parader magazine – or mail off their hard-earned allowance money for a fan club membership package – in order to keep up with their favorite recording artist. Things are, of course, much different here in the post-Mosaic era, where any middle schooler with an ISP and a free half hour can learn just about everything there is to know (and then some) about their most-beloved musical stars.
None of this is news to the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, quintet Waiting for Cadence, whose corner of the now-ubiquitous MySpace universe wisely points not only to the group’s exceeding generosity (half of the tracks from their freshman four-song EP, Star of All Stars, are posted at the site) but also to its finely-honed sense of humor. Indeed, the band’s online bio claims that its members are sustained by the unlikely combination of “love, Jesus and Amish Food.” Of course, the ability to have a laugh at one’s own expense does not necessarily translate into a first-rate album. The good news, though, for the those who value instrumental aptitude as much as a good belly laugh is that the Cadence cooperative’s endearing wit is matched by a correspondingly firm grasp of that which makes up a great pop song.
Given the austere, lo-fi-sounding percussion that introduces the leadoff track, “You” (think any of the programmable drum patterns on your first Casio keyboard), one could be forgiven for listening to the remainder of the cut with the proverbial single ear. What a tragedy if that were the case, given that the ensuing acoustic and electric guitars float in, as if on a cloud, and hover majestically atop the song’s delicate and beautiful melody line. “Red Tape” begins in likewise stark fashion, this time with a lone piano, before slipping easily into its appealingly laid back adult alternative pop/rock groove. It is on the acoustically-based “Just One Day,” however, where lads and lass from Lancaster truly shine. Drawing from everything from Matthew Sweet to Nickel Creek to mid-‘80s period Mellencamp, the endearingly buoyant song weaves the finest elements of the folk, pop and bluegrass genres into a thoroughly mesmerizing whole.
Objectively speaking, the basic, four-chord melody line which constitutes virtually the entirety of “You” can be viewed as either infectiously hypnotic or merely repetitive. Similarly, the barely decipherable lyrics of “Bright Shades of Dim” (which arguably borrows a bit too liberally from Blind Melon’s “No Rain”) may well be vocalist Joe Stauffer’s attempts to channel a pre-Document era Michael Stipe, but are more likely simply the result of a too-flat production. Any such sonic shortfalls, though, are largely trivial in the context of the album as a whole and point more to the way the group’s songs are recorded and performed than to their intrinsic merit. Likewise, the five-piece’s formidable lyrical skills and adaptability to a broad spectrum of musical styles do much to forgive its tendencies toward repetition and overzealous melodic appropriation. While it goes without saying that Stauffer and his cohorts have by no means “arrived” with the first record, the fivesome’s tongue-in-cheek exhortation to “keep one eye on the road and the other on Waiting for Cadence” seems only fitting in the light of their winsome, well-constructed debut.
Bert Gangl, The Phantom Tollbooth

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