When Kasey mentioned The Maldives late last year, labeling them “the best country band you’ve never heard”, I was intrigued. Partially seeing it as a challenge, I sought out to acquire their album, Listen To The Thunder. As year end lists started rolling in, I saw their name repeated on a few left-coast based blogs and I knew it was time I checked these Seattle kids out for myself. After a single pass through the album I knew it was necessary that they get a proper ninebullets.net writeup. My only regret is that it took this long for it to happen.
The Maldives come out of Seattle nine members strong, featuring Jason Dodson (Guitar, Lead Vocal), Jesse Bonn (Guitar, Piano), Tim Gadbois (Guitar, Piano), Ryan McMackin (Drums), Chris Warner (Bass), Chris Zasche (Pedal Steel), Seth Warren (Violin), Kevin Barrans (Accordion, Banjo) and Tomo Nakayama (Percussion, Piano), all coming together to create a sound just as expansive as their roster. Over the years the band’s line up has been pretty rough and tumble, but it started to settle in back in 2004 when singer Jason asked Jessee Bonn and fellow guitarist Tim Gadbois to sit in with him for a show. Like glances across a crowded bar, this chance night proved to be a life-altering experience for the turbulence that had been The Maldives. After that, the members and albums just seemed to fall into place, with Listen To The Thunder fully consummating the act.
The band self-describes their sound as “country music if Garth Brooks never happened”. Honestly, I have no idea what that even means. I’d describe their sound as country music being made by kids who spent a large amount of high-school listening to indie-rock. I’d file them along with acts like American Aquarium, Olin & The Moon and Ha-Ha Tonka. Another way to say the same thing is to say that if The Old 97’s would have come around today, they’d probably have sounded an awful lot like the way The Maldives do now.
As to whether this was the best country album I didn’t hear last year or not is tough to say. Hell, the massive stack of unlistened to cds in my computer room will tell you there were a whole lot of country cds I didn’t get to listen to last year. Best or not, I can say this: in a better world, Listen To The Thunder is an album I would have heard last year and, had I heard it, I would have labeled it Essential Listening without a moment’s hesitation.
Check these kids out: