You know 2016 is starting out fine when word of a new My Plastic Sun EP emerges. jumping karma trains includes five songs, one re-do, a former single and three new songs, it’s their third EP. If you’re unfamiliar with My Plastic Sun, the Rochester duo consists of Johnny Cummings – lead vocals, piano, various keyboards, bass guitar, electric and acoustic guitars, and Roy Stein – drums, percussion, keyboards, backing vocals and studio engineering. This project spends most of its time in the studio, they excel there, each with deep writing, musicianship and live performance creds. They work under the radar, but their products continue to be way above expectations, which are extraordinarily high.
The timing of the news from My Plastic Sun couldn’t have happened at a better time, the morning of January 11th, the morning the music world was shaken by the loss of David Bowie. There are few things that could’ve brightened that day, but there it was, an e-mail from Roy Stein, sent the night before. I could see the excitement in his eyes and hear the enthusiasm in his voice, “It was great to press the send button and get it out to you.” Stein continued, “We wanted to make a gentler EP with a bit of a spiritual journey kinda undercurrent to it. Not sure how that will play out but we made the record we wanted.” Ultimately, it’s what they always do, make the record they want, it’s been a solid benchmark for them for years.
“Wheels Turn Slow” is an introspective opener. It begins the story with a longing refrain, a look back, a look forward, reflecting on the progress of change and enlightenment. Brilliantly built-up from a acoustic track, the Sam Snyder floating electric guitar feels wanting, the soft march speaks to determination, the vocal toward mistake, deceit and re-invention, the difficulties of momentum.
“Falling Awake” will be familiar to long-time fans. Stein said, “We redid “Falling Awake” in a new way we felt captured the essence of the song better.” “Falling Awake,” the source of the EP’s title, has it’s origins founded in Sgt. Pepper’s with Lauren Becker’s subtle french horn, but this remake is all Pet Sounds. The light orchestration from the keys and choral backing harmonies ring true to the concept of “gentler EP” and the singer/songwriter basis shines through clearly. “In The Moment” has a bit of Philly Soul like Hall and Oates, but Cummings’ play with words keeps hinting at something more spiritual. Something bigger, more true, just slightly out of reach, from hand and heart. It’s hymnal, it’s beautiful. It’s love.
Cummings voice has a distinct feel of Chris Martin and the production plays right into it on “Somethings Coming Over Me.” It reveals itself as he goes to falsetto and retains the strength of his full voice. The hoped-for undercurrent is on full display here, the piano, the choral backing vocals, the broad mix, the “Tears For Fears” opening and rhythm. A tall standard to accomplish indeed. John Viviani’s guitar track is perfectly placed and Bree Draper’s vocal speaks to spirituality, strongly.
“Couldn’t Love You More” wasn’t on any EP and we thought it fit well on this so it was in.”, Stein says. “Couldn’t Love You More” is as sweet as pop can be, Johnny’s light vocal reading and ukulele lilting with the emotions expressed then enhanced with the acoustic bass by Kyle Vock. This is well visualized by Stein’s multi-talented wife, April Laragy Stein and John Runkel in the video previously released with the single. (see below) This song is Revolver quality, the addition of accordion (April Laragy Stein), acoustic guitar and reversed electric are deftly applied with Snyder’s assistance.
jumping karma trains was produced by My Plastic Sun, recorded and mixed by Roy Stein and mastered by Brad Blackwood. EP artwork by April Laragy Stein. While this band has seen a few bright lights, they haven’t been nearly as bright as they deserve. They consistently deliver music that is way above their current recognition and if someone in the know actually listened, there is so much more ground for them to cover. My Plastic Sun continues to be among the clearest voices expressing true pop art music anywhere. Get on the train and learn more about the band on their website, Facebook, Twitter, Spotify and Youtube.
Key Tracks: Couldn’t Love You More, Falling Awake, In The Moment, Somethings Coming Over Me, Wheels Turn Slow