shining through
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shining through

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"Review - Man Vs. Wild (2007)"

As San Diego’s Shining Through plays through their newest EP, Man Vs. Wild, singer James Clelland works at first-person accounts of self-doubt and discovery. In one of the best lines of the release, Clelland cries “I'm running forward with an awkward sense of direction / About forty digits separate me from connection” (“The Smoke and the Sounds”). The seven tracks on the EP are loaded with great one-liners, and that’s barely even a scratch on this fiery weed-rock mini-opus.

The rest of the band is squeezing pulp from bold guitars, bulky layers and stocked arrangements. The first four tracks of Man Vs. Wild power through like a wicked strong beast, making the album’s title too fitting. There are stretches when Clelland matches up with the beat so precisely that each line punches up its own poetic justice. This is where Man Vs. Wild is the most excellent, and every song on the EP has passes like this. However, new listeners may find themselves underimpressed with the melody alongside Clelland’s delivery and inflection, even when it grooves into awesome moments like these. His technique takes a bit of juggling to get a steady feel for, and his vibrato goes best with a grain of salt. The production works in the same department; Shining Through is made up of real, organic musicians, and Man Vs. Wild isn't meant to sound over-polished. Part of it's charm is plighted to be rustic and amateur. I have faith that those who are willing to take the time with Shining Through will become entranced. Those that aren't wouldn't have been a good band-fan match anyway.

The last three tracks are slower soul-searchers, and the guitars swell and drone majestically. The beginning of “I’m Okay” - easily my favorite on the EP - is a slow, highly-resonating electric dreamland. Folky acoustic guitar headlines on “So We Say,” and brass instruments liven up the end of the song for a peppy, hopeful conclusion. “Hanging On A” plays a lot like a hidden track, and guitars saunter around background noises like crickets chirping or children playing. The song gets lost in its own galaxy at points, but lines like “It’s not a hawk on a fence that makes you a man, it’s the things you just won’t do but completely understand,” and the group vocals towards the end give the song worth in depth.

If it is a comparison you’re looking for, you won’t have to search far. Shining Through will immediately feel familiar to those that have listened to neighborhood buds Weatherbox, a San Diego Doghouse band that’s been gaining radar space this year. Both Weatherbox singer Brian Warren and Clelland handle self-reflection like a romantic drug, and both bands play raucous indie rock in the line of Criteria, Piebald, and Manchester Orchestra. But this much brain-thinkin’ can’t be too good for the soul (or attention span), which is why Man Vs. Wild’s muscular guitars and arrangements exist to keep the trek exciting.

I tend to relate listening to indie rock with getting stoned too often. I'm sorry for that, but in Man Vs. Wild it's undeniable. Also undeniable is Clelland's way with words, Shining Through's crunchy guitars, and the bigger ideas that exist on Man Vs. Wild. Overall, it's an undeniably honest and bare EP with - and I can't stop emphasizing this - lyrics that win in both symbolism and vocal punch. Beat that Jesse Lacey.



Shapeshifter EP (2009)
C Sides EP (2009)
Man vs Wild EP (2007)
The Smoke and the Sounds EP (2006)
The White House EP (2005)
I Shot out Every Light in Town EP (2005)
The Ground Beneath Her Hands EP (2004)



shining through is the brainchild of singer/guitarist James Clelland. Since its 2003 inception the band has self-released 5 recordings and has played with bands like Portugal the Man, My American Heart, Weatherbox, Hellogoodbye, and The Receiving End of Sirens while roaming the country on self-booked, self-promoted tours. shining through’s latest EP, Man vs. Wild, was released as a free exclusive download on in November of 2007 after the band was noticed by Jason Tate the previous summer. To date it has been downloaded over 10,000 times. shapeshifter, a three song EP which sees James Clelland playing all of the instruments except for the drums, will be released in April of 2009 and will be followed by a three week tour spanning the western half of the United States, followed closely after by a two month trek covering the entire country. shining through’s debut album, the great enigma, will be recorded at the end of the summer of 2009 and will be released in the winter. As of now shining through consists of James Clelland (vocals, guitar), Ron Marinelli (drums), Cameron Austgen (bass) and Alex Acuna (guitar).