West Coast Reggae Rock: Pacific Roots
I honestly just discovered this band when YouTube Music suggested this album to me. And boy am I glad about that!
Pacific Roots are from Santa Cruz, California and they play in that category of West-Coast-skater-punk-skattalites that brings to mind pioneers Sublime and Slightly Stoopid. But nothing about this band sounds stale, played out, or unoriginal. In fact, quite the opposite.
Their latest album came out January 2022 and it more than delivers.
Album Review: Still Standing (2022)
At first listen of the first track “Some Kinda Way” I was floored. It just took off. Rolling snare drums give way to skankin’ staccato guitar strumming that is synonymous with ska music. Horns chime in and the furious ska punk intro melts into a mid-tempo ska-reggae verse. The verse continues before speeding back up into ska and then stage dives into more punk rock fury. And then back to a slow, groovy breakdown interlude with heavy sax. I was sold right at the first track.
An up beat ska intro track is a great way to introduce yourself on the reggae-rock scene. However, the next track slides into an eerie minor key, reverb laden trippy reggae short song about our favorite topic here at Smokey Okies: Growing good ganja!
Songs with Cannabis Themes
The song is called “Farmer” and its narrative is that of the cannabis cultivator. But the track is short and ends abruptly, acting as more of an intro for the next track.
“Run Dem Trees” continues the plod on the same theme, but this time from the patient perspective. This track is more of a regular beat, has great musical elements such as a lively guitar solo and delayed snare drums that you normally hear in dub remixes. (For the record, I love everything dub!)
So far, we have had a highly energetic ska song, and a down tempo, minor key stoner reggae song with dub elements. An interesting contrast of sorts as we arrive to the middle of the album where we are visited by a string of mid-tempo tracks.
Songs about perseverance and protagonist struggles
I favor track #5, “They Talkin,” a grounding, motivational song about struggle, and pushing forward to achieve success and desired outcome. The song encourages the listen to disregard the naysayers while staying humble. This is a common theme on the album, and one that draws me in and keeps me cheering.
The standout track to me is “Believe.” It is an epic five minute track that continues on the them of our protagonist persevering in his goals to be a career artist.
The song builds from a mellow jam to a pleading chorus, full of conviction:
“If y’all won’t believe in me, then I’ll just believe in myself.”
An interlude has us jamming to a lengthy guitar solo that builds into a percussive chant; we are all in at this point! And then it rounds back to the mid-tempo chorus before delicately taking us back down. This song is my personal favorite on this album.
Another stand out track was “Time to Go,” a slow ballad featuring non-guitar stringed instruments and Santa Cruz solo artist Shawn Yanez. This was a song that I could imagine hearing on pop radio. It just had that sound. But it doesn’t sound contrived or lacking in authenticity. It’s a heartfelt ballad that is genuine all the way around, and really showcases the talent we are dealing with here.
If you like that category of West Coast reggae, ska-punk, then I highly suggest you check out Still Standing by Pacific Roots. By far my favorite summertime reggae jam album of 2022 and I will enjoy it for many years to come.