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Second Agenda | Hope is a Must EP

Album review by John Powell

Second Agenda | Hope is a Must EP

Producing a sound that is equal parts badass and positive messages isn’t always easy. It takes serious consideration to word lyrics and put them into melodies that don’t come off cheesy or contrived. Hope is a Must, a delicious EP that proves they are more than capable of doing whatever the hell they please.

The overall sound fits in with G. Love, Slightly Stoopid, and even Michael Franti, blending elements of hip hop, rock, reggae, funk, and blues. Singer/guitarist Andy Lugo has said he doesn’t follow typical song structure, not worried if he hits the chorus enough times, or if he has a well-timed bridge. The effect is that the songs move, flow, and keep the ear interested throughout these five songs.

“Hope is a Must” has Michael Plante’s sparse turntabling, which is really fun and adds a sense of edge. The song also has guest horns by Ben Reed and Matt Davide, as well as mandolin by Eric Segalstad. It builds on the line, “I feel great/just knowing it’s not too late.”

A key track is “Share the Sun”, a song Andy wrote about his old home, Colorado. “Under giant skies/there was no moon/but the wolves were howling/that night the stars changed eyes.” What’s coming from above? Could it be extraterrestrials in this cliffhanger story of one man’s surprise? “What I saw/was absolutely stunning.” Joshua Cleaver’s bass gives the song a funky vibe, and then Andy sings, “Now I know we’re not the only ones on the map,” and the band cuts loose. There’s cowbell too. What’s not to love about a song about extraterrestrials?

There’s a fair amount of rocking on this EP, driven by Trevor Jewett’s groove-centered drumming and Joshua’s six-string bass gallivanting. For only four guys, they make a heck of a ruckus. They’re a bit of a 90s power trio with turntables. That’s awesome, I think.

Their best song, however, is “Outta My Head”, fueled by a fierce guitar lick flooded in overdrive. Andy is a humble guitarist and would never admit his skill. He’s incredible. He has the ability to harness the key elements of any genre of music and splice them together. The instruments all fit together like puzzle pieces- which is sort of how the album was recorded, in chunks, tracks passed around the musicians over months. “Outta My Head” is the shortest song, but is like a summer anthem, a 90s radio number one.

Second Agenda’s agenda is sometimes political. “Optimistic”, (complete with guest Tim B. Swanson on violin), is sung in near-rap and is lyrically astute in its observations. “Popo mace/compassion/Death’s embrace/military tazers/optimistic identity erasers.” Andy touches on global warming, the CIA, Wall Street, and the cost of college. That’s a lot to tackle in three and a half minutes, but like I said, Second Agenda does what they want, and it works every time on this excellent EP.

Mastered locally in Burlington, VT with KTR, Hope is a Must sounds organic, good on headphones and in the car. I highly recommend getting into Second Agenda as we wait for further shows, recordings, and experiments with sound.

Bottom line: The only problem with this EP is that it leaves you wanting to hear more.


 

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