Ambassadors is stellar band name – one arbitrarily snatched from the drummer’s cymbal once upon a time. But “Ambassadors of what?” you may ask. The Brooklyn-based, Ithaca-rooted foursome are unofficial arbiters of a sound that crashes and smashes, stultifies and nullifies any genre confines of the musical realm.
Brothers Sam (lead singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist) and Casey Harris (keyboardist), childhood friend Noah Feldshuh (lead guitarist, co-songwriter) and drummer Adam Levin have honed their sound into a dynamically layered, lyrically intimate, and percussively polymorphous fusion of diverse influences.
Their album “Litost” is not pure pop, not exclusively electronic, not totally rock n’roll. What has emerged is as new, yet familiar as a Picasso. You can recognize the parts – screaming metal guitar, wailing gospel melodies, R&B roots, triumphant hooks – but the sound as a whole is fresh, exhilarating, and provocative.
CHARGED.fm had the privilege of seeing Ambassadors in dichotomous settings – acoustic and 100% plugged in. Intimate or on-stage, they are anything but quiet. Dual drumming along with the mesmerizing voice of Sam Harris has an endorphine-inducing effect. The hills and valleys of his soul-infected voice soar from aggressively guttural lows to haunting howls that hit the ceiling.
He’s got a sweet, soaring falsetto comparable to Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon – just add bluesy grit, rhythmic physical prowess, and a hell of a lot of volume.
It’s crystal clear that the boys didn’t start playing guitar on the quad in college to pick up chicks. Inheriting the parental pipes, the brother Ambassadors lend experienced lead and back-up vocals.
“We grew up in a very musical household,” said Harris. “I’ve been singing, basically, since I could talk. Our mother was a folk singer in a duo called Sweetfire (she was the sweet one), and our father had this incredible collection of records. The Billy Joel record album with ‘The Stranger’ on it was one of my first, favorite, and most influential finds in my dad’s music room. It was a truly reverential, hallowed place in my house that I didn’t delve into until high school and that record will always have a sort of mystique around it for me.”
It comes as no surprise that Sam Harris is a walking music library who could have a lucrative side job as a human jukebox. Get him talking about the band’s influences and you will get a lovely smattering of hooks from all your old favs. CHARGED.fm was privy to a little Billy Joel sidewalk-sampling of “Cadil-ac-ac-ac-ac-ac you oughta know by nowww,” outside of their recent show at Highline Ballroom.
“We’ve gotten past that stage where we are just seeking out the new cool music, and listening to old shit,” said Harris. Phasing from obsession with the Stooges and the Clash to some post-punk, “It wasn’t until half-way through college that I re-discovered great hip-hop and R&B from the late 90s.”
“Unconsolable,” “Weight/lightness,” and “Bodybag,” have been risen to the top of my most-played list. Another of their stand-out tracks “Falls” intuitively imbibes the youth mentality of the here and now – reminiscent of simpler times and less responsibility, yet yearning for more. “Make believe we were younger, forget the money we owe/But you’ve got your prior commitments baby, just wish I had some of my own.”
Anyone who would be just as amped to tour with D’Angelo as with the Black Keys – how can we get enough?
- enrapt posted this