Not many bands have experienced the amount of personnel change that New Monsoon has over the past 12 months. Going from a seven to a five piece (percussionists Brian Carey and Raj Parikh left the road and bassist Ron Johnson replaced Ben Bernstein), the band persevered, and V represents a new chapter for the band and a strong follow-up to 2005's The Sound.
The sound is streamlined – New Monsoon is now more prototypical jamband, lacking the world beat feel it had with tabla and bongo – but the intensity and songwriting are still strong as ever. V does delve into genres other than rock, taking a stab at reggae with "Neon Block" and bluegrass with "Romp," but they're at their best when they're full-speed ahead and balls-to-the-wall.
V's instrumental "Song for Marie" is New Monsoon at its best, charging along as guitarist Jeff Miller rips off some great Allman-esque licks, but on "Water Vein" there seems to be a little empty space – the song misses the extra percussion.
Where the band succeeds the most are the songs with sparser arrangement – ones that didn't steep in the old line-up. "The Other Side," is one of the stronger songs on the disc, with its grooving pace that slowly builds before taking off with a great Miller solo, while "Alaska" showcases the band's great vocal harmonies and storytelling abilities.
V does lack the familiar beats that older New Monsoon fans are used to. However, the direction the band has taken leaves plenty of room for growth as the new-look band continues to develop its sound, and V is a great start.
V is out now on New Monsoon Records