Banquets - Top Button, Bottom Shelf (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Top Button, Bottom Shelf (2011)

Black Numbers

Yes, it's another band from New Jersey. Do they sing about life in their hometown? Sure. Is there a hint of classic Americana with the essence of pop-punk? Check. But don't let that discourage you; Banquets may not be reinventing the wheel, but they know how to make it roll effectively.

Started as nothing more than a collaboration between friends to play music on their own terms--when they want, where they want and without touring or record obligations--Banquets have two solid releases (and a split) under their belts in less than two years. Their debut EP, This Is Our Concern, Dude, was a promising introduction. Though rough and a little inconsistent in presenting a specific style or definitive sound, the EP was solid enough to get people listening, and garner the band a slot at the Fest 9 in Gainesville, Fla. The band's debut LP, Top Button, Bottom Shelf, is a thought-provoking title when you really think about it. Lead vocalist/guitarist Travis Omilian describes it as "finding the inner-scumbag in yourself, kinda like asking for a hotdog at a nice wedding buffet." It's that sneering sense of humor that seems to contribute to the carefree mood of the record found on tracks like "Just Me and My Jose Canseco Rookie Card." One of the record's best tracks, "Forever Bender," showcases the band's knack for catchy hooks, and snarky lyricism, including "Ooooooo, I'm petty-ful / I pissed in your garden / now nothing's gonna grow."

The overall growth of the band as one cohesive unit is prevalent throughout the record. Songs such as "The Sound of Money" and "Sometimes a Wolf" feature dynamic backing vocals, tempo changes and the overall tightness you'd expect in a more seasoned band. Furthermore, Omilian's vocal range and ability has dramatically improved, allowing the band to try more diverse approaches including "Best Night of the Night," where Omilian's vocals seem to perfectly weave in and out of guitarist Dave Frenson's precise timing and bassist Chris Larson's consistent tempo.

I've read reviews that have said this is great music to listen to on a long drive, or put on while hanging out with a group of friends, and I'd agree with both statements. I highly recommend this album to anyone that just likes good music without the frills or pretentious attitude. One of 2011's best.