Atlanta rockers Marathon may consist of the quartet of Mike Roberts, Chuck Carrier, Tim Turnbow and Dan Morris, but with vocalist Carrier writing every song on their debut album, The Year of You, it's clear this is his band and also equally evident that he is a tremendous songwriter. Carrier started out as a solo artist and gained a support slot with Sister Hazel in 1996 before realising his songs could benefit from a full band sound, and as a result The Year of You retains the acoustic essence of his compositions, whilst flushing out the sound and creating an infectious straight-ahead rock sound in the process.
The song that could well catapult the band from obscurity is the quite superb "Any Other Day", an incredibly catchy track reminiscent of bands like Far Too Jones, Toad the Wet Sprocket and Gin Blossoms, which bursts into life during the rocking, atmospheric chorus and refuses to leave your head for days on end thereafter. But there's plenty more besides this undoubted highlight to indicate Marathon have what it takes to make the step up from rock hopefuls to major-label material, such as the southern-tinged "Talk and Alcohol", with the Hammond organ that flavours much of the album put to particularly good effect. "Stand Back" is another vibrant, rocking standout, as is the poppy "Rotate".
Carrier's versatility as a songwriter in the Glen Phillips/Rob Thomas mould is in evidence on the mid-paced semi-acoustic musings of "Come Home", a tune that grows in stature with every listen; the part live, part studio storytelling of "Gambler's Greed", which impresses with its gorgeous melody and compelling lyrics; and the one track carried over from Carrier's solo days, the impressive "Better Things Than I". The lyrical themes are occasionally a little too abstract, and along with the haunting title track, the wholly acoustic "14 Days" is another melancholy tale of broken relationships, yet in Carrier's capable hands these tunes remain nothing less than captivating.
Modern and edgy, whilst undeniably commercial and melodic, The Year of You demonstrates Marathon have talent and ability in spades. Riding on the coat-tails of recently successful bands like Train and Matchbox Twenty, the band have arrived in the right musical climate, and with an album as good as this, they certainly have given themselves a fighting chance to succeed. How apt the band's name is, because something tells me Marathon are in for the long run.