Album Review: A Scene United

Jacob Beals

“A Scene United” is the second compilation album from Maximum Ames Records and Nova Labs, featuring nine tracks from each label.

It was released during the 2015 Maximum Ames Music Festival and is currently available for $5 at the Iowa Music Store located on Main Street in Ames. 

Maximum Ames and Nova Labs have been combining for a while now on several projects, including the festival which lead to the creation of the album.

Nova Labs founder Bryon Dudley said the idea of this album was to bring together some of the top music from each label and spread the local music scene to new listeners.

One goal is for both labels to stick together and help each other. This album is physical proof of that.

Dudley described Maximum Ames as a “big brother” to Nova Labs because of all the inspiration they’ve passed down. Co-founder of Maximum Ames Nate Logsdon also commented on their relationship.

“We have a lot of similarities in our mission and there is a lot of overlap of personnel, people that are associated with both labels,” Logsdon said. “We all play in bands together and we all go to each other’s shows, so it’s a pretty natural collaboration for us.”

The album begins with two pop-rock tracks; the first sounding more pop and the second more rock. Mr. Nasti’s “Always Believe” gets the sampler off to a fast start, with an upbeat tone behind deep and powerful lyrics.

Doctor Murdock’s “March to the Meaningless” follows with a wild style that feels very much like a marching tune mixed with a rock and roll song.

Christopher the Conquered has the third track of the album with “Everybody Rains”. The piano carries this track with a very prominent rock beat followed by saxophone and percussion.

Under two minutes in length, this song is very fast paced and builds speed as it goes along until it ends loud and powerful.

Moonrabbit’s “The Overwhelming Joy of Emptiness” has lyrics on the emptiness of life. It starts out resembling a heartbreak song, but builds into a heavy-rock sounding chorus and ends this way.

Following is Mumford and Sons’ “Caster”, a catchy beat with a message about people’s uniqueness and the importance of being themselves.

“Greg’s Song” by Holly and The Night Owls is one of the deeper songs on the album about love gone wrong. This song has a soft opening but leads into a chorus that is fast yet mixes well with the track.

Gloom Balloon brings another love-gone-wrong song entitled “She Was the One That Got Away”. This song gives off a more upbeat sound compared to the previous love songs. It has a catchy background chorus that carries the song and gives it a positive tone.

“Obsession” by Obsidian’s Dream has a style that sounds a lot like a classic rock song. There are many instruments played loudly on this track, but it adds a unique effect by giving an emphasis to the music and not the lyrics.

“Old Tree Blues” is by Brooks Strause and is, perhaps, the darkest song on the album. It has a tone similar to that of older blues and love songs mixed with a modern heartbreak song. Little instruments are heard, and sometimes the music becomes silent to give the focus to the emotional vocals.

Track ten, “Waves” by Mighty Shady, sounds very much like a modern pop song. The lyrics are about love becoming a routine and questions how great love can be regained.

Following “Waves” is another love song titled “Teach Each Other” by Twins. It is a song about the jealousy that can come with love and the worries that people tend to have with relationships and trust.

Trigger Fish’s “True/False” continues the previous trend of pop rock tracks on the album, but this time it adds a more mellow tone and lyrics, which makes it stand out from the other tracks.

Next, the album features a couple of country/western-sounding songs. First, at track 13, is William Elliot Whitmore’s “Run Johnny Run”, which is all about a moonshiner breaking and then escaping the law. Then The Colt Walkers feature “Dustin’ off my Vinyl” which focuses on having a good time while relaxing.

These two tracks take a quick break from the rock style and add even more variety to the album.

“Multi-Unit Housing Makes Bad Neighbors”, by The Lonely Hearts, returns to the pop/rock style with lyrics about the dark side of apartment living. The song seems to be critiquing certain negative life styles.

Nate Logsdon’s “Mixed Emotions” conveys just that, including lyrics about wanting to be one way, but at the same time being the opposite. It’s backed up by piano and features an intricate solo right before the third verse.

“Safe With Me” by the Trouble Lights uses a techno style to back up the song’s vocals, making it one of the most pop-sounding tracks on the album.

The lyrics focus on lonely feelings and encourages the listener that those types of feelings will improve and life will get better.

Closing off the album is “I Hear Music” by Secret Freedom, which is all about how a great relationship can feel like music. This finale gives the album a very upbeat ending and leaves the listener with anticipation and excitement.

“A Scene United” is a wonderful experience of an album that will have listeners excited to dig into more local music around Ames. It has wonderful variety but at the same time it feels like it all belongs together.