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I was getting gas a couple of weeks ago when I saw this falcon pursue a sea gull for about five minutes. It was pretty amazing simply because that was about as close as a confirmed city guy like me comes to seeing nature’s primal life and death struggle unfold before my eyes — unless I’m watching Animal Planet. There was a time when falcons were plentiful in North Central Indiana. But, they’ve been endangered in urban areas like South Bend for a long time. We have raptors in South Bend these days because a bunch of nature lovers reintroduced them about 20 years ago.
The soul/rock/funk and pop band The Endangered got me thinking about the concept of endangered species. A band selects a name such as The Endangered for a reason. Their reason for choosing the name is that they believe something about the modern music industry’s ecosystem makes their brand of music and musical philosophy an endangered species.
Of course, Maiya Sykes, Nick Block, Frank Abraham and Gene Coye won’t be the first musicians to believe they’ve been marginalized by the industry. Jazz musicians can write the book on that. Doth they protest too much? Perhaps. Sites such as this one attest to the fact that there are a lot of artists making good music. However, there aren’t too many places where high quality music like The Endangered can be heard, on terrestrial radio anyway.
While it might be difficult for The Endangered to break through the pop music clutter and be heard, their new self-titled EP reveals a quartet with a lot of good things to say. The five tracks on The Endangered are marked by their quality and diversity. The tracks are well-written both from a lyrical and music composition standpoint. It moves seamlessly from the funk/rock of “Broke Heart,” to the title track, a ballad that combines an acoustic pop feel with bass-infused R&B that is elevated even higher through Sykes’ vocal work.
The quartet dives deeper into the rock genre on the power ballad “You’ll Be Mine,” while “Dollars” finds the band taking a clear-eyed look at the financial constraints that going the indie route places on a band. The tune asks how artists and the public should define success. If an artist doesn’t go platinum does that mean the artist is not successful? The quartet asks that question starkly in the number’s hook “If it don’t make a dollar will it break my heart/If it don’t make a dollar will it fall apart/If it don’t make dollars is it real/Can I call it art?”
The final track, “Mistakes,” is the strongest moment of a high quality project. On this radio-ready, adult contemporary cut, Sykes sings about walking into a relationship with no fairy tale illusions. She knows that love entails a certain level of risk. Yet, she is willing to take the plunge. I hope that music fans willing to take a similar plunge on The Endangered’s EP. They’ll assume no risk on this enjoyable album that combines solid material and even more impressive performances. Highly Recommended.
By Howard Dukes