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July for kings
Submitted by Nick Anastasia on 2015-07-09
July for kings To Release First Album In Over 5 Years, "Middletown", On July 14

Middletown is July For Kings first album over five years, and is described as a return to JFK's signature sound, complete with crushing distorted guitars, melodic hooks and vignettes of American midwestern life.  Songwriter and lead vocalist Joe Hedges elaborates, "this album is really for the fans.  As we have grown in different directions as individuals, July For Kings as an entity retained a power and importance for a lot of people, and this album is a way of respecting that for ourselves and for listeners."  
While the album's recording was essentially a Cincinnati-area DIY effort with long-time collaborator Eric Stewart, guitarist/recording engineer John McGuire oversaw the completion and mixing of the record as executive producer, bringing in two Los Angeles-based mixing engineers Michael James (L7, Hole, Jane's Addiction) and Paul Pavao (Breaking Benjamin, Marilyn Manson).  John McGuire, a University of Cincinnati Cincinnati Conservatory of Music graduate, also mixed several songs at his own studio J Mac Studios in Cincinnati, and Toledo-based Jeff Harris of Mad Sam Studios mixed one of the album's ballads "Kite", which features original JFK member T Miller on cello.  
The carefully balanced post-grunge and pop sensibilities of Middletown, grounded by Hedges' consistently thoughtful and personal lyrics mean the record has more in common with JFK's 2001 MCA debut SWIM than any other July For Kings or Joe Hedges effort.  Hedges explains, "the songs were all written over a period of several months so I think they stick together pretty well.  I've always enjoyed albums that are dynamic, that show a range of human emotions."  
The power-pop inspired track six is about Middletown, Ohio, the album's namesake and the high school stomping grounds of Hedges and drummer Dan McQuinn (who also contributed some production to the record).  "Middletown is a pretty typical small town.  I always liked the connotations of the name, Middle-Town as in middle of America, middle of the road, etc.  The city has some economic problems like any other rust belt city, but also is home to some extremely hard-working and generous people."  Hedges and McQuinn met in Middletown, OH as kids and "used to watch each other's high school bands perform Tool covers.  The song is just about growing up there--playing music, driving cars, attempting to talk to girls".  
Other tracks range from aggressive nearly-metal "Climb" and "Back to Life" to acoustic ballads like "Believe Me" and "Tarantula".  The album somehow holds together, despite five years of recording, ten studios and a wide range of stories and moods.  While the record is guitar-heavy, there are some much appreciated moments of cello, piano and even trumpet to keep listeners engaged while adding some musicality.  
Longtime July For Kings fans will undoubtedly relish this effort.  This album may also be a gateway for new fans and younger audiences to appreciate the wall-of-guitars sound that reigned before flannel gave way to plaid and earnest Alternative became ironic indie.  For those of us who never lost interest in music that was at once powerful and humble, you may now eat your heart out in Middletown--if just for July.
Source: Joe Hedges
Contributor: Nick Anastasia


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