The Blackmail Seduction began their musical journey in Minneapolis, Minnesota and has since relocated to the Los Angeles area, but there’s a surprising amount of heartland influences making their way into band’s songwriting. The band’s second self-titled album, The Blackmail Seduction II, has an interesting mix of sounds and textures while maintaining its focus on well constructed tracks with a sharp lyrical bent. Lead vocalist Jess McClellan’s songwriting for The Blackmail Seduction has a strong autobiographical suggestiveness, but it’s well rounded enough to encompass an universality possessing across the board appeal. It’s quite a feat to balance clearly personal songwriting with mass market punch, but The Blackmail Seduction hits its mark with style time after time on this release.
“Dead Girl” builds to a steady boil, but The Blackmail Seduction keeps a firm grip on the reins throughout the song and never overplay. Newcomers to the band’s sound and songwriting will note how, despite McClellan’s songwriting dominance over the band’s material, they never fail to play as a cohesive unit. Newcomers will also gravitate towards McClellan’s emotionally powerful voice. Despite the emotiveness of his singing, he has an edgy rock tone in his voice that helps give it the right amount of attitude. “Tell the World” takes that to the next level with a forceful rock sound quite unlike anything else on The Blackmail Seduction II. Troy Hardy and McClellan’s guitar playing comes together better on this song, arguably, than anywhere else on the release and even unveil a double guitar attack different than anything else on the release.
“She’s Leaving Home” has a much more pensive demeanor than the preceding song and brings new sounds into the band’s identity, but the most striking aspect of the song for me comes across in the stately pace set rock in the song. There’s ample melodicism as well and the backing vocals during the song are critical to the song’s success. “Visiting Hours” shows us another turn in the band’s musical personality and has a more muted air than any of the aforementioned songs including “She’s Leaving Home”. I’m especially impressed by McClellan’s singing during this song – one can easily assume this song is ripped from the pages of his autobiography, but it isn’t difficult to relate to this song. He really lays it on the line with this track and it’s an invigorating listening experience.
The Blackmail Seduction has an uphill climb in the modern musical landscape, but I remain a believer that sincerity can still carry the day for listeners. You can’t help but respond to their obvious investment in these songs and there’s never any sense of the music or sentiments feeling forced. Instead, The Blackmail Seduction II hums from the first and doesn’t have a single apparent lull. It’s a more than worthy successor to the band’s debut and sets them on a course for even greater success in the future. Jess McClellan and his cohorts are poised for great things on the back of genuine talent.