Album Review: X Ambassadors – “VHS”
July 7, 2015
There’s something about X Ambassadors that makes you instantly want to dance. Grounded in hard rock, their sound stretches into soulful dimensions, giving it a unique edge all their own. With the debut of their full-length album, VHS, the New York-based Alternative outfit propels themselves onto the Rock scene through every note. The lead singer’s high energy presence and guitarist Sam Harris’ skillful musicianship are infectious, the ultimate crowd pleaser.
I first discovered the band back in 2012 while living in Virginia. The local alternative radio station, 96X discovered a group called “The Ambassadors” and I have to say I was intrigued. They began playing a track called “Litost” that quickly became a local favorite. They had such a big following in the area that the band was invited to open for The Lumineers, a current addiction of mine. I’ve been to more concerts than I can count but there was something special about that night as I stood in awe of this opening act. Fast Forward to summer of 2015 and X Ambassadors have come such a long way. They’re drawing large crowds at festivals all over the country and getting national recognition for their new singles that have now manifested into VHS.
This album breaks all the rules, redefining what alternative rock is meant to be. The combination of rock, soul, and electronic elements gives the audience an entirely distinct listening experience. The record brings plenty of catchy hooks mixed with strong guitars and keyboard tones. I honestly can’t think of another artist to compare them to. Sam’s voice is similar to Bruce Springsteen yet the music is in a whole different place, let alone time warp. Label mates, Imagine Dragons and Jamie N Commons both are featured on the album, in case you wanted any other reason to check it out. VHS is already gaining a lot of attention from the singles “Renegades” and “Jungle,” both of which have been featured in national commercials for Beats Headphones and Jeep, giving the guys a whole new way to reach new fans.
What I love about this album is how it covers every mood. The versatility of an album is such a rare find but they executed it flawlessly. “Jungle” is a powerful anthem that has hip-hop influence and on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, “Unsteady” is an emotional ballad that really hits home. Harris says he wanted VHS to feel like a movie as it tells the coming-of-age story of kids trying to escape their small upstate New York town. There are small sequences of family videos woven in-between each song that connect listeners to the artists at hand; a completely new concept to me. All of which culminates in the band members telling their own story of how they made it out of the clutches of their small town to the success they are at today.
I’m lucky enough to have watched this band grow for 4 years and I have to say that VHS is the perfect personification of the band’s hard work. This kind of genuine connection and raw, unorthodox style is what they’re known for and I believe this strong a record will appeal to people from all walks of life. What’s not to like? It’s upbeat, different, and the lyrics have meaning. Prepare your ears for a great time with some of their best: