Michael Yonkers has a lifetime of Twin Cities musical experience, and the Blind Shake are quietly gaining status themselves. Cold Town/Soft Zodiac is the pairing's second collaboration; the first came out in 2007. This time it's a split, with Yonkers's songs on side one and the Blind Shake's on side two.
The Blind Shake play concise, driving garage rock. If they have a fault, it's the repetition of similar song structures over a full album, but this record starts with a slow, sludgy rocker until Yonkers's booming warble comes in, adding a haunting, psychedelic element to the familiar sound. Throughout the Yonkers side, the guitar is less prominent, with Yonkers's distinct voice stealing the spotlight but never steering the band away from their succinct approach. For the most part, it feels like the Blind Shake are a backing band, with Yonkers's voice adding a distinct 1960s feel in songs like "I Want to Tell You" and "Cold Town," the former featuring vocal harmonies and serving as a collaborative step forward.
The Blind Shake tune their guitars up and immediately adopt a noisier approach on side two. Jim Blaha doesn't sing until "Wise Mr. Owl," but it doesn't affect the mood at all; Blind Shake are about rollicking, syncopated energy, vocals or not. His singing tends to serve more as an extension of the rhythm, and this is a key difference between sides. The band use noisy intros and vocal dynamics to expand their sound from previous releases, while maintaining their signature sound and reducing the repetition.
As a whole, the record is another success for the combo and shows a developing musical affinity. With Yonkers's recent retirement from the live scene, one can only hope he will continue to offer new studio efforts that look forward as this does.