“Change Yer Life”
Bella’s Bartok is one of those rare bands that defies description. With so many bands and artists riffing from well-worn blues lines or rock motifs, these guys stand out on their own as highly original. Their self-described “modern pop-klezmer” combines a high-energy Eastern European sound with a vaudeville feel. Everything is up-tempo, surging from song to song with intensity and flash.
Mardi Gras is another thing that comes to mind listening to this album. There are an abundance of horns dramatically punctuating the rhythm, with ferocity. In any case, there is a party happening with every track. This is the kind of album that is hard to just relax and chill out to – it has way too much energy. It’s a much better choice when going out for a run or pre-gaming for a fun night out.
Musically, it’s a very solid work. The lead vocals from Asher Putnam dominate the tracks. He’s got a lot of style and great control, which he exhibits frequently. They feature lots of harmonies too, which add some great contrast at times.
The rest of the band is just as tight. Many are multi-instrumentalists, and the list includes clarinet, mandolin, trombone, accordion, trumpet, and banjo to supplement the guitars and drums.
“Change Yer Life” kicks off with “The Strigoli Waltz”, an up-tempo klezmer song that really represents well the feel of the whole album. It is punctuated by trumpets and features the vocals front and center. They exhibit tempo and rhythm changes and really show off what they do well.
One of my favorite tracks on this is “Mother”. It features lots of great vocal harmonies, supporting a ballad feel at times. It picks up into a more medium tempo for a while before dropping off again and switching gears to another down-tempo section before picking it up again to take it out strong the rest of the way. It’s close to 8 minutes long and has a lot of great movement, as well as some nice sentimentality in the lyrics.
There are a lot of great tracks on here. “The Fiddler & The Devil” is a fun upbeat stomper. “The Strange Ones” starts off kind of quiet before bursting out into almost a tango feel. The last track “Ramona” is their first single off of “Change Yer Life” and has a more pop feel and some nice changes.
What really strikes me about Bella’s Bartok is both their originality and their swagger. It’s one thing to commit to a really unique sound – it’s another thing to pull it off so convincingly and confidently. I highly encourage you to check out “Change Yer Life”, and see Bella’s Bartok live for the full experience. They tour the Northeast regularly and will be in CT and RI several times this summer. That is, if you have the energy to keep up with the band. Bring your dancing shoes.
Tom Matthew, Two Ton Music