Wholesome, honey-sweet reggae.
Solstice came out on October 13, 2017, and I think I’ll be reminded of it every fall forever. Fall is a sentimental season, a birthday season, and a get-ready-for-fucking-winter-again season for me. It’s always nostalgic and intense somehow. This album brings me a sense that life will sort out soon, and helps me absorb the last remnants of the summertime.
Thunder Body’s Matt O’Brian, Rachel Orke, and company (Jeremiah Pacheco on bass, Dennis Mariano on guitar and vocals, Benton Sillick on trumpet, Matt Seiber‐Ford on tenor sax, and Abe Nouri on trombone) created such a full, light, harmonious reggae sound here. If you like Giant Panda, or John Brown’s Body, there’s a chance you’ll really like this vibe.
This is their latest work (2017) released by Rootfire Cooperative and it follows a 2010 EP Thunder Body, and two full-lengths Wind Blows Harder (2011) and Radioactive (2012). Radioactive is just now coming back on my radar in its own right, but Solstice is the album I’ve been stuck on longer.
The album opens with ‘Solstice,’ a swaying ode to oneness despite our differences in this world. “Every word spoken that’s kind and pure, is a holy word.”
‘Jasper Sage’ is a sweet song to Matt and Rachel’s son. It holds life lessons and lots of love. I can’t identify much as a 25-year-old without a family, but I can admire the emotions they put forth on this track.
‘Moonlight Over Mendocino’ is a love song with beautiful vocal harmonies right out the gate. It carries the familial themes through, but focuses more about love between two people across time, space, and challenges. Wicked guitar licks in the middle, too.
‘In the Night’ is about the pals. It’s got a loungy island feel, tasty horn lines, and dub fx weaving in the background, followed by a really pretty piano solo towards the end.
“It’s together or not at all, together or never.”‘In the Night’ – Thunder Body
‘Trainyards’ has musical themes that’ll stick in your head for an eternity. And who doesn’t love a good song about the ole railroad? This song is uptempo, but somehow very soothing. I think it’s all in the lyrics: “everything is moving along just fine,” with the imagery of the “warm spring sun,” and the steady mantra to “respect your body, respect your life.”
‘Gong’ and ‘Secrets of the Senzae’ are the two instrumental tracks on the album. Every Thunder Body full-length’s gotta have ’em. Having seen them live, I know that the band gets extremely jammy – the players can keep a groove like this going for a long time with some wild improvisations over-top.
If I had to pick just one song off the album, it would be ‘What’s Sweet About Lemons’. Listen. to. this. song. Maybe it seems cheesy at first, to write about lemons, and tea, and honey, and bees. But it’s a revealing track about the mysterious, magical, and wonderful side of all things that seem one way at the surface, but contain multitudes. I’m a wildlife biologist by training, so I love the naturalism in the songwriting. But I also hold the idea, that everything is more complex and powerful than meets the eye, close to my heart.
‘Worried Woman’ was the first tune I heard as an album single. It fits on the album, but definitely didn’t give away much in the way of direction before the full thing actually came out. This song is about insecurity and comfort. It’s about ego, love, the strength of women, the strength of men. How can you ever fully believe and trust another, when you can never think and interpret though their lens?
‘Elliot’s Song’ was for Matt’s nephew, a prayer to him and it’s a happy song. It wraps around nicely to the opener in talking about spiritual forms of worship.
All in all, it’s just a really wholesome album that feels like hope and home.
08 – ‘What’s Sweet About Lemons’
Give it a listen:
Released October 13 2017