Every once in a while, I develop a strong connection with a newly discovered artist or band, and quickly go deep into their back catalog, which eventually leaves me eagerly awaiting the next installment and craving more. This happens most often when the music of that artist or band ties into my personal life experiences and memories. Right from the first time I heard Rog & Glenn the duo got their hooks into me as their sound kept me journeying through my nostalgia for the legendary Steely Dan. Like the ‘Dan’, Rog & Glenn are able to blend elements of rock, jazz, pop, and blues with tuneful melodies, sophisticated studio production, and complex arrangements that are surprisingly easy on the ear.
Rog & Glenn create, what I call, deliberately intellectualist music that necessitates technical musicianship and educated lyricism. That said, their music’s appeal, extends well beyond the ranks of any collectivity of elitists or snobs. It’s for any set of ears with a little more sophistication than required by the current mainstream. And it can all be savored on their latest project – which is technically not their latest release – simply entitled “The 2019 Album”.
“The 2019 Album” was actually recorded prior to the trilogy of albums Rog & Glenn dropped in 2020. “This was a concept album commenting on the various ways social media and fragmented media had changed us for the worse,” said songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and singer, Glenn Hubbard. “It felt a little too raw in 2020, so we put it on hold until now. We inadvertently documented a point in history when things were about to come unraveled,” he continued, “which is why we thought it was fitting to call this The 2019 Album — as if to explain what got us to the divisiveness of 2020.”
The delay afforded the duo time to evaluate the music, re-write some of it, and enhance the arrangements and mixes, yielding a more polished finished product. Alongside Rog & Glenn, you will hear the exquisite drumming of Jeremy Cayton, a longtime contributor, both to albums by Rog & Glenn and their other musical outfit, Collaborateurs. He has become such an integral part of their projects that his is considered a virtual third member. In fact, this album is credited to Rog & Glenn with Jeremy.
Rog & Glenn also use horns as expressive, exalted instruments in their songs, not just for padding or blunt vibrating columns of sound. Hence you will often encounter the skills of Matt Vance, a first-call saxophonist and horn arranger based in Jacksonville, Florida, on their tracks. Matt, along with Maggie Vance and Marvin Ferebee, contribute indelible horn parts to selected songs on this album. They can be found instantly on the urgent and sweeping opener, “No Words”.
Jeremy Cayton’s wares are soon displayed on the percussively-driven “Alpharetta”, and the sturdy backbeat of “Unromantic Love Song”, before the layered harmonies and insistent bounce of “Method” comes to the fore. Given my listening preferences for intricacies, details and musical breaks that take you on a journey. It’s hard for me not to be drawn to songs like “Hooking Me” and “Daywhat16”. Especially this latter song, which unfolds and develops over a whopping 16 minutes.
Highly sophisticated and not easy to pigeonhole, the album’s fleshed-out sounding, and artfully constructed blend of fusion, progressive pop and art-rock flavors, is a universe apart from the electronic and rap scenes prevalent today. Rog & Glenn are sonic perfectionists, scrutinizing every arrangement until every note is irrevocably in place, to get the desired effect. You’ll easily pick that up on “No Hands” and “Video Chat”. “All That” also showcases its nitty gritty details, between harmonies and crunchy guitars.
The slower “Downhill”, continues the pristine goodness of this album, before Rog & Glenn’s storytelling prowess comes to the fore on the dynamic keyboard-driven “We’re Through”. The album closes with jazzy slow-burn of “Set Your Alarm”, featuring the sublime skills of Matt Vance. “The last two songs sum things up pretty well,” said Hubbard. “We’re Through, needs little explanation while, Set Your Alarm, ends the album with the more hopeful message that it’s time to wake up.”
“The 2019 Album” proves that the songwriting and musical duo of Rog & Glenn are at the peak of their career. The vocals are top-notch thanks also to the harmonies that surround the main voice, and the notable beats provided by drummer Jeremy Cayton keeps it all together until the final note. This is arguably the finest album release in their catalog.