The Shacks 10” EP / CD – Big Crown – 2016

Leon Michels is becoming a legend in the East Coast retro soul scene founding bands like El Michels Affair & Menehan Street Band and playing in groups such as The Expressions & the Mighty Imperials. From playing multiple instruments, to songwriting, & producing he has birthed several funky soul jazz albums over the past 15 years. His unique craft of creating cinematic instrumental soul music has helped his groups gain fans beyond just soul & jazz. His music has also been heralded by lovers of hip hop, funk, & soundtracks and with his newest endeavor, the Shacks, he continues to display his versatility. Yes, Leon Michels has done it again, with his version of indie rock on the self-titled debut, The Shacks EP.

The Shacks is led by singer Shannon Wise & guitarist Max Shrager creating a stripped down whispering style of indie rock which is part soul, part rock & part French pop. Leon Michels produced most of the music on the record and luckily discovered Wise’s soft style by chance one day while she was with Shrager in the studio. The song they recorded that day turned out to be the first single by the group called “Strange Boy” which would be released as 7” inch single on Big Crown. The song is ultra dreamy with hints of lo fi, garage influenced rock, but Wise’s honest & effortless vocals give each lyric a beautiful life. “Strange Boy” starts off with Wise quietly uttering “Strange boy you make no sense / and when you talk the room gets tense…Strange boy you drink your fill / you only like me cuz I’m new.”  Nothing overly poetic, but genuine and perfectly performed.

The self-titled EP ranges from folk like somber moments of “Left It With the Moon” to the dub style of “Hands In Your Pockets” to the indie pop “This Strange Effect” and the more romantic harmonies of “Orchids”. The Shacks is a beautifully crafted collection of songs that not only sound amazing but also have that authentic vibe of music made by real people; not paid studio hands micro managing every measure. Wise & Shrager are young & talented, and blessed to be in the hands of Leon Michels who will certainly keep their sound organic and relevant. We loved this record and recommend you check it out. Also, it’s worth noting that the 10” does not include the two songs from the 7” single “Strange Boy” & “No Surprise” which can also be found with all the songs on the CD version.

-AJ – 2017