The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

REVIEW: The Shacks – ‘Haze’ (Big Crown)

  • 9/10
    - 9/10


Refracting the pop and rock psychedelia of the Sixties through the prism of modern songwriting and with soulful delivery, The Shacks have delivered what will surely be regarded as one of the best guitar debuts of 2018.

The Shacks currently represent the dream, or at least the ideal position, for so many young musicians who are trying to make it in the music industry today. Founding members Shannon Wise (lead vocalist) and Max Shrager (guitarist/producer) are only 19 and 21 years old respectively (additional members include Ben Borchers and Evan Heinze). Yet, in barely any time at all, the four-piece are well on the way in becoming one of 2018’s breakthrough acts. But does the quality of their debut album Haze synchronise with the hype that encircles it? The answer is an astounding yes!

The Shacks revive the psychedelic aesthetics of late ‘60s pop and rock psychedelia whilst keeping in touch with modern song-writing techniques. Everything from that period is encompassed lovingly on Haze, including influences from Pink Floyd, The Beatles and The Electric Prunes. The illusory and lackadaisical hypnotism of this genre of music is what made it so eloquent and thought-provoking at the time, albeit partly fuelled by the LSD craze that chaperoned it. However, every now and then, these psychedelics gel with various tints of soul music that originate from artists like Charles Bradley. In fact, Wise appeared in an iPhone advert where the background song is the band’s own cover of Ray Charles’ ‘This Strange Effect’. In short, The Shacks nail both these genres with superlative results.

The opening title track, which was the first track Wise and Shrager ever wrote together, displays The Shacks’ simplistic approach to their songwriting. The emphasis is hooked onto these vividly colourful chimes that regularly crop up and the texture of Shrager’s ‘60s-esque guitar tone is spot on. The following track ‘Follow Me’ has increased levels of insouciance. The addictive “I hope you’ll follow me” line that is sung by Shannon Wise’s soft, velvety voice is exquisite. The track ‘Birds’ is where Beatles and Floyd influences begin to emerge, but not in a too-obvious manner, due to the uniqueness of The Shacks’ façade. In this song, Wise paints a picture of living in the countryside after leaving the city (“I left the city because my brain was fried / The birds will cry their healing song”). In addition, Shrager’s catchy sliding guitar riffs makes ‘Birds’ one of the album’s shining moments.

Now going into the second half of the album, which is just as stimulating as the first, the track ‘Sleeping’ derives from a David Gilmour perspective with a bold, double-note piano part adding bravado throughout. On the other hand, ‘Blue & Grey’ and ‘So Good’ is more like the easy-going Laura Nyro, particularly off her underrated classic Eli And The Thirteenth Confession (1968), with simplified lyrics like “Hey, you know I love you / Well then I can say hey, hey!” protruding from the latter. Lastly, the closing track ‘Let Your Love’ is the perfect psychedelic send-off from what is a truly exceptional and accomplishing commencement for The Shacks.

Even after repeated listens, there is so much to love about Haze, is a smooth and mellow yet simultaneously bright and optimistic LP which is more than worthy of landing itself high up in 2018’s end of year album lists. (9/10) (Harry Beynon)

Listen to Haze by The Shacks here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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