Apex Shrine's Home Baked: Review and Stream

Jammy, blues-kissed psychedelia is alive and well, and being rehearsed in a Crestwood basement. Apex Shrine, helmed by brothers Jack and Dan Eschmann on guitars and shared vocals, mines guitar-centric classic rock that never seems to go out of style.

Yes, there are expected traces of Jack White and the Black Keys on a few of these tracks, but, as befitting an album with the word "baked" in its title, Home Baked is happy to lay back in the groove. The nine-song LP was released in December, but the band's regular live shows and appearance at the early June Wakarusa festival in the Ozarks (alongside STS9, Umphrey's McGee and other jam-fest mainstays) have raised the young band's profile.

The clearest sign of Apex Shrine's modern guitar-rock tendencies comes right away in the opening track "Can't Help Myself" -- the imprint of Dan Auerbach is hard to miss in the fuzz-addled guitar and echo-treated vocals, techniques that the brothers employ in tandem throughout the album. "Walk" kills a little of the buzz that the lead-off track had brewing; the song's heavy, rudimentary riffs belie much of the nuance found elsewhere. The Eschmanns are skilled enough guitarists, neither overly flashy with their solos nor especially interested in pushing these songs past their blues-rock limits. "What's the Point" lets the guitars stretch out and finds the Eschmanns altering their tone with delays and phasers, while final track "Nobody Belongs Anywhere" hints at something more celestial.

At well over seven minutes, "Never See Me Again" crashes and churns as it delivers its kissoff, and a roiling Hammond organ adds depth while bassist Brandon Pesek and drummer Nathan Wilson deploy a light shuffle in the verses and unload in the chorus. The song serves as a good aperitif for the album's centerpiece, the noodley, falsetto-aided "Smooth Creation." Some moments on Home Baked sound overblown or overlong (as music of this style tends to be), but "Smooth Creation" is effervescent and carefree, a short, staccato bit of funk that could serve as a working template for the band's next move.

Stream the new album in full below:

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