Since their formation, the Bay Area-based soul outfit Monophonics — Austin Bohlman (drums), Ryan Scott (trumpet, backing vocals, percussion), Max Ramey (bass) and Kelly Finnigan (lead vocals, keys) –have developed an approach that continues in the classic and beloved tradition of Stax Records, Muscle Shoals, Daptone Records and Dunham Records: much like their influences, the Bay Area soul outfit’s material is centered by an incredibly cinematic sound that draws heavily from classic soul, heavy funk, psych rock recorded on vintage analog recording gear. This is paired with a healthy amount of old-fashion woodshedding, crafting and McDonald’s and Finnigan’s late night overdubs and studio work. “We’re from the same school as the producers from the studios we love. We use the tools that we have to make the best records we can,” the band says in press notes.
Monophonics’ third full-length album It’s Only Us is slated for a March 13, 2020 release though Colemine Records. While the album will further cement their long-held reputation for being an act that’s keen to creating and playing a heavier and edgier version of classic soul, and for arguably being one of the Bay Area’s best classic soul-inspired acts, the album reportedly is a reflection of what the band sees as the current, troubling direction of our world. Thematically, the album touches upon much-needed messages of unity in a fractious and divisive world, strength, resilience and acceptance. Also, sonically, It’s Only Us reportedly finds the rising soul act gently refining their signature sound with a healthy dose of new and warmer textures.
Last year, I wrote about “Chances,” It’s Only Us’ lush and uptempo bit of two-step inducing soul that sounds like a crate digger’s dream of stumbling across some obscure and dusty Northern soul or classic American soul from the mid 60s. But at its core, the song warned empathetic lovers to think twice about giving that straying lover another chance, making the song an aching and age-old tale of the difficulties of saying goodbye to a no-good lover — even when it’s absolutely necessary. It’s Only Us‘ second and latest single, album title track “It’s Only Us” is a lush and swooning track, centered around an achingly gorgeous brass line, shimmering keys and guitars, a sinuous bass line and Finnigan’s soulful and vulnerable crooning — and while being both subtly psychedelic and cinematic in a way that recalls Curtis Mayfield, Issac Hayes and others, the song, as the band’s Kelly Finnigan explains “is about the first time you tell someone you love them. It’s that moment in life so many of us have had where we make ourselves our most vulnerable. While on the outside, it has the qualities of a traditional love song, underneath it is an anthem for humanity. Right now, we are witnessing a time where so many people feel polarized and there is a divisive mood in the country. inside the story is a message of unity, trust and acceptance that goes beyond falling in love.”