>> The Saplings make their full-length debut with a record that highlights their enthusiastically punchy sound into a jazzy pop release that feels as fresh as it is fun.
The Saplings have been making waves in the Rochester music scene for the past couple of years now, when they made their initial splash with their debut self titled EP in 2017. Since then, the many-membered group has been playing shows, writing, and honing their craft, and it shows with their latest release of 'Go Digital!' What makes The Sapling’s most unique is their approach to genre. They are just as much a pop supergroup as they are an indie rock collective, and are both of these things just as much as they are an extensive jazz band. They wear many hats and juggle many balls, and manage to keep everything balanced incredibly well. The production on this project is fantastic, lending a great service to the busy and proficient instrumentation on each track. 'Go Digital!' has something for everyone, with a simpler, bouncy indie rock track like “Poolside Watching” being complimented quite well with an explosive, dynamic jazz/pop fusion song like “Space Traveler, Pt. 1." The three song saga of “Space Traveler” (parts 1 through 3) adds a dynamic to the middle of the record that feels like an adventure that is built up to in the other tracks on the project, and is then come down from remarkably well in the tracks that follow. The horns, drums, and keys are blissfully complex and simple depending on the moment, and a listener will find new treasures in each track for each return listen. The additions of synths and guitars on particular tracks flesh out the soundscape of those moments. Additionally, the quirky and sweet quality of the vocals lend a personality and face to the music that really ties everything together. Think Snarky Puppy meets They Might Be Giants, and you’ll get an idea of the band’s sound. The subject matter can be as broad as the general existentialism and the nature of being young, to the national crisis of mass shootings, to tidbits of Rochester culture and history. The phrase “there’s something here for everyone” gets thrown around a lot, but it is hard to think of a band that mixes genres this well. The influences that are brought to their sound are apparent, but rotate around from track to track in a way that does the project a great service as a whole, and adds a great flowing quality to the music. There are songs with anthemic and ballad qualities here, along with almost acid jazz climaxes on other tracks. This really is an artfully balanced mix of genre that gives the listener not only a lot to work with and think about, but a lot to return to as well.
While 'Go Digital!' is remarkably focused, it at times feels a little long for a debut project. It is clear that a lot of effort has been put into this project to sound unlike anything else in the music scene right now, whilst still remaining accessible to many different kinds of listeners. While this goal is mostly successful, there are moments where songs may be a little overly self indulgent and linger on for a bit longer than seemingly necessarily, with self-reflective yet seven minute long “Floating” as an example. The music is great, but the aesthetic and mood concepts of the song don’t lend themselves well to a track of this length, and don’t provide the fuel to keep the song going conceptually.
Overall, The Saplings have come together with a debut album that could very possibly land them on the map. They have a sound that is not only artistically crafted and music nerd approved, but also seemingly commercially viable. There is a lot of promise not only in this band, but in this release. There is so much fun to be had on 'Go Digital!', but also a lot of ideas both musically and lyrically that provoke some significant thought. If nothing else, The Saplings are a group with incredible focus, keen observation and understanding of the current music scene, and proficient musical skill. This is a band to keep an eye on. 4.0/5 <<