ERIC SCHACKNE – Hammers & Strings EP

Singer/songwriter/pianist Eric Schackne often showcases a gift for accessible upbeat arrangements topped off with a strong melody and hook.  With that in mind It is interesting, therefore, that on his second EP, ‘Hammers & Strings’, Schackne chooses not to play his strongest card straight out.

‘Well Dressed Future’ begins the release in a surprising fashion, with Schackne singing over some simply played electric piano chords.  As the track progresses, the vocals build, slowly adding harmonies until eventually Schackne’s voice is multi-tracked to offer something rather complex sounding.  Despite the brilliant use of multi-layering and a busy piano break approximately midway, the soft nature of this track makes it sound as if it would better suited to closing the EP as opposed to opening.  It’s with ‘This Classic Romance’ Schackne cuts loose and gives listeners the real deal – a brilliantly arranged piece of rock which shows the true depth of his musical talents.  The guitars crunch in a melodic fashion; the drums lay down a jaunty rhythm while Schackne’s multi-tracked voice has unexpected hints of Shades Apart’s Keith V.  Underneath it all, clanking piano chords hold everything together – not always as audible as they could have been, but they briefly break loose for the occasional flourish midway and again toward the end.

‘Art Can Change The World’ finds Scheckne moving away from the piano (at first), fronting a stomping arrangement which largely centres around acoustic riffs.  By the midpoint, the electric elements kick in and, naturally, underneath everything, Scheckne returns to his comfort zone and adds plenty of bar-room styled piano.  Individually, these elements could have sounded a little messy, but thanks to good songwriting, it’s all quite rousing and fun.   The softer ‘Miss Me Now’ (an uncredited seventh track), is incredibly strong with a mix of ringing guitars and pianos delivered in a way which is wholly reminiscent of John Ondrasik and his Five For Fighting project.  Here, the perfect blend of soft rock guitar chops and a pure pop hook makes for great listening; a great example of a blossoming talent.

The EPs best track ‘Loud and Clear’ is another very well balanced offering, once again allowing the guitar and piano parts almost equal space within the arrangement.  The vocals come fast – wordy, but never ridiculously so – and during the quietest moments, the rumbling pianos tip the hat to other more familiar sounding piano rock practitioners.  Schackne’s song writing may not be as cutting as Ben Folds or as emo-centric as that of Jack’s Mannequin, but he brings more than enough charm to the table here to win you over on his own terms.

After ‘Well Dressed Future’s slow-ish opening, ‘Hammers & Strings’ features material with potential to  grab the listener right from the off…material which, on occasion, makes the creation of radio friendly tunes and hooks sound relatively easy.  If you’ve ever had a soft spot for Five For Fighting, Jack’s Mannequin et al, chances are, you’ll find tunes with appeal here.

April 2012