Album Review: SOWFLO: New Shoes – Thematic Turns and Positive Vibes

Poppy, reggae beats resound in the latest offering from the (SO)uth-(W)est-(FLO)rida-based five piece.

Off the back of the success of their 2016 debut Such Is Life – which reached fifth place in the Billboard reggae charts – the reggae/rock quintet have teamed up once more with Marc Lee (Damian Marley, Stephen Marley) to produce this laid-back, feel-good 10-track release. The album is packed full of accessible syncopated melodies and catchy choruses.

The themes explored lyrically on the album are, perhaps a little disappointingly, not examined deeply in most parts: the prevailing atmosphere created is one of general positivity and a non-specific desire to change the world.

Although it may not provide much for those that seek meticulously-crafted poetry or depth, the album does succeed in transporting the listener to a sunnier and more uplifting place.

One track that diverts from this theme, however, is opener “Amalia”, which happens to be – in this reviewer’s opinion – the most memorable. Instrumentally speaking, it resembles its successors, featuring a bouncing, offbeat guitar, relaxed drum beats and the occasional spot of brass.

Thematically, however, it is distinctly different to the rest of the album; it explicitly explores a mother’s struggle with drug addiction. The issue doesn’t reappear at any point during the remaining tracks. And so, it seems a curious choice for a leading song.

Perhaps the band wants to convey a more serious side, before it delivers an easy-going, ultimately positive musical sequence. Yet the lyricism in “Amalia” does present, overall, a message of hope; that ‘.things will surely be better again’. It does, therefore, initiate the positive vibe that permeates through the following numbers.

In regard to its musical content, penultimate piece “Argmagideon” breaks the mould. It opens with what may very well be a didgeridoo, before the entrance of rolling drum beats, quickly accompanied by distorted guitars and strong vocals.

With a set up like this, the band is arguably aiming for a rock sound, as opposed to the classic Reggae style. In fact, the track highly resembles the work of Sum 41, and thus delivers a foray into new generic areas. An incorporation of brass is the only feature that ties it into the rest of the album.

Every musical and thematic digression works in SOWFLO’s favour; without these, the album would risk monotony. Thanks to each variation, the listener may be better able to appreciate the emotional appeal of New Shoes.

Bethan Ryder

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