The eight song collection Sonic Boom from Toronto, Canada based Across the Board is their second fill length release and builds on the momentum generated by their preceding effort Amends and the cross Canadian touring that followed. Across the Board are clearly ready to take their ambitions to another level and the songwriting and overall construction of Sonic Boom likewise reflects the higher stakes. Singer/songwriter Jacqueline Auguste labels Sonic Boom a concept album, for all intents and purposes, but she’s much more interested in overarching themes tying the songs together. The musical arrangements are wholly consistent with one another, as well, and the release strikes a satisfying note overall and song by song. It’s notable that Auguste hasn’t penned all of the songs on Sonic Boom, but the covers fit in quite nicely alongside her own songwriting. Across the Board’s Sonic Boom Is one of 2018’s most important releases from any music scene.
I can’t help but be deeply satisfied by the diverse sonic architecture powering what seems to be, initially, a high velocity pop rock album and little more. Even if it were, however, there’s no question that Across the Board has mastered the art of writing and performing five star efforts in that vein. The title song has a relaxed musical mood and an often impassioned singing performance from Auguste while the second cut “Back to the Tracks” is a tune close to the band’s heart and their Canadian identities, but it’s accessible to a wide audience rather than just exerting its appeal on America’s northern neighbor. “It Shouldn’t Be This Hard” is a winner for me, cut in much of the same occasionally knife-edged pop rock that we’ve heard so far, and it’s another example of their talents for writing and delivering a particularly punchy chorus. Those are the kind of things that really stick for a song with me and make everything else around it all the more memorable. Many listeners will, undoubtedly, likewise appreciate how there’s no apparent egos at all working themselves out in these performances. Instead, Across the Board never sounds like anything else than a real band.
Their penchant for upending expectations great and small reaches a peak with the track “No Curtain Call”. The vivid writing, layering of mood and effect, and the stellar musicianship driving this song got under my skin with a first listen and it bears repeated plays to fully appreciate this acoustic change of pace. Across the Board raid U2’s recent history and pluck “Kite” from All That You Can’t Leave Behind out for a reinterpretation that remains faithful enough to the original for some to love it while still elastic enough that the band leaves their own mark on the tune. The track “Two Step” is, perhaps, a little surprising with its raucous rock and roll attack, but it has tremendous verve from the outset and the band even does a convincing hard rock turn at various points in the performance. Sonic Boom will have an explosive impact on Across the Board’s fortunes and one can only hope that the exposure it provides allows them to further expand their touring reach. This can be a very big, international band if enough people hear what they’re doing.