by Christian Odadzin
“I am ready. I am scared, but I feel fine,” Take Off Charlie sings on their new album, I WAS BORN TO FLOAT.
Take Off Charlie hit the Akron music scene back in 2013 and seemed to be everywhere. In their first few years they played more than 100 shows, growing from their Rubber City roots into a regional touring band with a loyal fan base that expanded with each show. Though in their late teens and early 20s at the time, they released a well-received album in 2014 and seemed poised for bigger, better things. They chose to go on a self-imposed hiatus instead.
Now, after nearly five years, Take Off Charlie is back as a confident, mature band. I WAS BORN TO FLOAT is a declaration. It is a statement of purpose, hope and courage.
The first single, “Believe Me Son,” is an anthemic, romping march that will get the live crowds jumping. Big harmonies are a trademark for TOC. They are layered not with delicacy, but with power, woven with piercing guitar work over a rich, piano-grounded base. This song will make you stand up and take notice — and it’s not even the best song on this album.
Take Off Charlie took nearly five years off from performing in order to make this record. Let that sink in. They could have released these songs two years ago, but they refused to do so until they agreed that this was the album they wanted to make. Nothing is here by accident. There are subtle, ethereal moments. There are jazzy, uptempo cuts. There are pop hooks and flat-out “punch you in the face” chops, but the music never feels forced or crowded. These songs weren’t written as much as they were crafted.
This band does not lend itself to comparison, but My Morning Jacket/Jim James fans will find something to love from the opening bell. The full range of the five-piece band is on display on the initial track, “The Room/The Circus/The Field.” This opus is a sonic roller coaster. Sean McDermott’s songwriting is deft and earnest, layered over drifting melodies and tempo changes.
TOC had a plan for this record, as opposed to their more freewheeling freshman album, and it shows from the jump. There are 12 songs on I WAS BORN TO FLOAT, and each is distinctive, yet there are common threads that tie this work together. Themes of innocence, youth, courage, change and acceptance are woven throughout the album, but it never comes off as heavy-handed or preachy. These are songs of exploration, of struggle and of celebration. This is one beautifully honest record.
I WAS BORN TO FLOAT will be available for digital download on April 5. The band will be celebrating the release by returning to the site of their first concert, Musica, with special guests The Diamond Kites and Three Legged Chair on Friday, April 12.
Take Off Charlie is Sean McDermott on lead vocals and rhythm guitar; Leah Gable on percussion; Michael Shaw on bass and guitars; Austin Milvet on lead guitar and vocals; and Drew Wheeler on keyboards, violin and backing vocals. Learn more about the band at www.takeoffcharlie.com.
Christian Odadzin can’t play a lick, but loves music and Akron’s growing scene. Frequently the oldest guy at the show.
Photo at top: Used with permission from Take Off Charlie.