The Endangered – The Endangered (EP) (2012)

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Guitarist Nick Block, bassist Frank Abraham, drummer Gene Coye and vocalist Maiya Sykes originally pooled their talents together not as a performing band, but with the idea of working as a music-production house, writing songs for others. The vibe among them felt so right, though, that soon they knew they were destined for more and in 2008, The Endangered was born.

A quartet out of L.A. with a name like “The Endangered” conjures up notions that this might be some hardcore metal or rap band (maybe because of the word “danger” is right in the middle of their name), but there’s a more logical reason for the moniker. Explains Sykes, “We named the group The Endangered because we felt that the type of music we enjoyed playing was slowly being edged out of the popular music lexicon.” That gets to the heart of what makes this band so appealing: they perform the right balance of the old school soul, jazz, rock and Adult Contemporary, created with the care and construction of the pre-Pro Tools days but with just enough nods to hip-hop and indie rock to place their music in the here and now.

These individuals have the earmarks of being serious musicians. Block and Coye attended the California Institute of the Arts together, Abraham is a Berklee grad and Sykes is a classically trained vocalist who, among other endeavors, sings back-up for Macy Gray. It’s easy to forget that the instrumental section is just a trio because they fill up the sonic space with ease. Abraham and Coye form a locked-in rhythm section and Block fills in the harmonics with the aplomb of a jazz guitarist. Listening to how they operate on “Broke Heart,” where they attack the song just like The Police, you get the sense that these guys are real pros.

“Calling On You” (official video below), is the band’s first single. It begins with a warm, soulful Tuck and Patti vibe that unfolds delicately, reaching an aching plea crescendo by the time the song reaches the bridge. Sykes brings her cross-genre — classical, jazz, soul — background into this and other songs, investing the right passion into the song, but never over singing like a contestant for American Idol; she’s a polished product.

The melancholy of “Calling On You” is followed by the more hopeful “You’ll Be Mine,” with a soaring, guitar-driven hook in the chorus. “Dollars” shows how good a hip-hop groove can sound when it’s done organically. “Mistakes” seems to draw inspiration from the acoustic guitar neo-soul of India.Arie combined seamlessly with a swelling rock chorus. Mature, thoughtful song construction helps to it all come together naturally.

Well produced by Steven Miller, a Grammy winner who’s worked with Jack Johnson, Pink and Dave Matthews Band, the only outside instrumental help came from veteran jazz keyboardist Mitchel Forman on most tracks. But The Endangered don’t need much help. When four talents, however great, combine to form a performing group there’s no guarantee it’s going result in great music. The Endangered’s recording debut is one those instances where the whole exceeds the sum of its parts. They’re just getting going, but these five songs are convincing enough to merit keeping close watch on what follows. If there’s a fresh sounding ensemble that can keep the great soulful sounds of yesteryear from going extinct, The Endangered could very well be the band that will do it.

The Endangered’s EP was self-released on May 22. Visit The Endangered’s website for more info.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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