For The Heavy Pets, Strawberry Mansion is simply the next step in their decade-plus journey to hone their sound to the ultimate edge. Since their founding in 2005, the Florida-based jam aficionados have experienced exponential progression as musicians, though their recorded output over the last several years was restricted to three EPs, Two Horses (2012), Rags and Aces (2014), and Stolen Smile (2015). Luckily for their many fans across the nation, The Heavy Pets have recently emerged from the studio with a strong set of fresh, nuanced original material set to be released on Friday, February 23rd as Strawberry Mansion, the band’s first full-length studio album since 2011’s Swim Out Past The Sun.
Strawberry Mansion kicks off with the harmony-laden guitar and island flow-tinged track called “Higher”, which quickly inspires wide smiles and lays down irresistible grooves. Twin guitarists Mike Garulli and Jeff Lloyd manage to merge so seamlessly that the track qualifies as both a treat and a feat. With the sunshine soaked vibe set, the second track, “Shahryar’s Rage,” is based around a funky organ lead that comes straight out of the mid-seventies funk renaissance. After The Heavy Pets utilize distinctly different styles for the first two tracks it should come as no surprise to listeners that the third song in this collection goes in yet another direction. “Second Sky” uses a laid-back acoustic guitar line to take everything down a notch for a slow-burner that still manages to inspire repeated listening.
Saving the title track, “Strawberry Mansions”, for the middle of the disc again shows a mastery of the easy, breezy soul & funk of the seventies. The Heavy Pets manage to evoke the era without sounding derivative, thanks in no small part to the flair of keyboard payer Jim Wuest. That seems to be the theme of the disc: building something new using the tools and materials of the past. Whether showcasing crisp, sharp-edged, southern style guitar chops on “The Ibis” or the bubbling “Rainy Days”, there are flashes of the familiar throughout, but the whole always feels like something new and entertaining
To close out the album the Heavy Pets clearly assert that they still have some straight-ahead rock potential to tap into with the track “Invisible Coyotes,” premiered last week via Live For Live Music. Drummer Jamie Newitt and bass player Tony D’Amato, who provide crisp and popping rhythm throughout the entire disc, certainly relish the opportunity to get a little out of hand for once, and the results show their enthusiasm clearly. The song’s menacing, underlying beat and bombastic guitars cry out to be turned loose on a darkened live stage sometime soon Finishing Strawberry Mansions with a flourish, “Holy Holy” is an arching instrumental that seem to beg to be let free and soar.
The big takeaway from Strawberry Mansion is the proof positive that The Heavy Pets still have the capability to produce stellar original material. The road warriors have already announced an ambitious slate of gigs in support of the new album. With a fantastic new album on its way and an extensive album release tour on the docket, now is a great time to be a Heavy Pets fan…let’s just hope the wait for the follow-up to this wonderful album isn’t as long as last time.
The Heavy Pets will officially celebrate the release of Strawberry Mansion with an official hometown LP Release Party at Ft. Lauderdale’s Culture Room on Friday, February 23rd. The band will set out on an extensive tour from there. For a full list of upcoming Heavy Pets dates, or to grab your tickets, head to the band’s website.