The Last Bison

Antifragile Music, 2018


REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


The Last Bison has never been a stubborn folk outfit. For instance, even a mere sampling of their 2013 Christmas EP Sleigh Ride­, which consists of beautiful pop-oriented arrangements of Christmas classics, indicates that this Chesapeake, VA-based act is as comfortable outside of their roots rock bubble as they are inside it. However, even with this fact in mind, it is surprising that they have made an album like SÜDA.

You see, SÜDA is a through-and-through pop record, just gushing with only the sweetest candied music that’s polished to perfection. It has just a fleeting trace of the outfit’s earthy folk roots in the form of the occasional background violin.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

At the same time, even for a group that showed affinity for pop in the past, this album is a shocker. A big cause of this shock is that SÜDA is simply flat-out brilliant: It is hard enough for a seasoned pop band to come up with a catchy album of such caliber, let alone a bunch of indie folk musicians. Take any angle, be it songwriting, production, musicianship, singing, and this release nails it.

Above all, it is utterly full of life. Even the slowest track, the somber and hushed piano ballad “All Of The Time,” is lively, thanks to frontman Ben Hardesty’s heavenly and passionate vocals. The album only gets more vibrant from here. The single “Gold” is infectiously upbeat with big anthemic guitars. “Anywhere You Go” sounds like a happy party song with a warm “tropical” vibe. The title number has a classic rock feel with its lush retro synths and flowy guitars and is mellow without being wistful.

The Last Bison’s foray into pop is not the only first here. Another surprise that SÜDA has in store is the inclusion of world rhythms, which kick the group’s song-crafting skills up a notch. The guitars on “Echo Of Eden” is reminiscent of Ethiojazz. The rather angelic “The Glow” has percussions, backing vocals, and rhythm, which together give it a tribal feel while still maintaining its pop catchiness. “Cold Night,” with its celebratory gusto, sounds like an incredibly fun Afropop number.

No matter if you are a long-time fan, or a first-time listener, The Last Bison is a brand-new act on SÜDA. Not without consternation, the purists who have been following this outfit might wonder where the banjo and mandolin have gone. Although there is cause for disappointment in the fact that the band has totally ditched their roots, there is consolation in knowing that they have not done so in vain; this dramatic change in direction has yielded an astonishing piece of pop record. Does it really matter if it is not the genre of music that one might have preferred?

Rating: A-

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© 2018 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Antifragile Music, and is used for informational purposes only.