Oldboy. Covered in Sound.
Oldboy, 2012. Oldboy: https://www.facebook.com/oldboycleveland
Ok well goodnight everyone, Imma go sit on my lawnmower, drink a beer and strum my acoustic guitar to some odd time signatures. Thanks for reading.
Oh, alright. Despite my previous hypothetical scenario, Oldboy’s Covered in Sound is as indie as they come, and fits in perfectly with the fictional setting I described. Yes, in a world where Mumford and Sons made mainstream folk boring and obnoxious, its up to lesser known artist to carry the proverbial torch. As someone who was raised on folk music, I can appreciate the simplicities offered by the first release of Cleveland born rock/folkers known as Oldboy (Their website specifically says it is not pronounced “Old boy”), writing dust-covered anthems for the common man with simple yet effective tones.
The first track (appropriately called “Prelude/My Dear”) lays out pretty much everything you need to know. The intro sounds like it was recorded in someones garage, which just so happens to fit with the indie tones this band emits. We are then subjected to a rather twangy over-dubbed guitar, banjo, and drums. The rest of the title track is upbeat and pleasant, if a little ho hum and generic. To be honest, it reminded me of a strange mixture of Rusted Root meets the Zac Brown Band.
Then, almost instantly, Oldboy slams on the brakes and starts in with the slow tempo moody ballad about having to break it off with a female who he had affection for. Yawn. Okay, to be fair, the song actually ramps up near the end, and turns out to be one of the most interesting songs on the album. It comes off very sincere, and thats one of the aspects I love about folk music. Problem: DON’T MAKE THAT THE SECOND TRACK! Following an upbeat cheerful song about making propositions to members of the XX gender, with a mopey slow paced song shows range, I guess, but it gives this album a very strange pace. The rest of the album runs at somewhat of a smooth gait, but its undeniable charm and unmistakable style, more than saves it from its semi-rocky start. songs like “Covered in Sound” and “Daylight Savings” are undeniably enjoyable.
And I just want to say, at first, I did not care for the singer’s voice. I mean, it wasn't bad, it was just a little too, eh, rustic. But the more I listened, The more I actually dug his voice. I also noticed how his voice changed according to the song, kinda like Modest Mouse, and sometimes like Counting Crows. Its really quite impressive, especially, his vocal range. The rest of the instruments... perform. The guitar sounds nice, and the drums don't really do anything to steal the show. The instrumentation is just, according to the band’s website, their bass player plays a bass with only two strings, and thats... different....
Look, I like this album, Its a deep fried, chicken fried piece of northern Ohio gold. Covered in Sound won’t light your world on fire, but it is very good. The song “Gone” is a fun Southern-inspired, guitar centered, alt rock piece that I more than recommend checking out. I’m serious, this song would probably be the most-played song on any adult alternative station in the early 2000s. Even tunes like “Orchard Thieves” and “Stars” have some great rhythms and solid harmonics. “Run” was a soft Almost every song is sprinkled with lyrics that contain subtle layers and metaphors. telling stories through the radio and comparing a relationship to driving the wrong way down a highway, are lyrical themes modern folk/country artists wish their producers could write for them.
One of my bigger concerns is that some of the instrumentation on this album feel a tad too country for my likings. Especially since Covered in Sound is for the most part an alternative folk act. Widdling banjo riffs I can take, but the lonesome steel guitar sounds feel a tad honky tonk and out of place. To me at least. This feels like an album that is trying to do too much, and believe me, I commend them for that. Some elements just felt out of place. But the songs that nail it, Nail it. There are seriously song great scenic, rustic folk jams on this album that are fantastic.
Just like a cold local brew, Oldboy is smooth, flavorful, with a distinct vintage taste. as classic as a black and white film, and as refined as a classic love song. A classic indie alt rock group who add some well deserved freshness to an otherwise stale genre. I cannot wait to hear more from them. Check ‘em out.
Personnel: Shawn Brewster (Vocals), Michael Kinsella (Bass), Greg Hyland (Drums).
Tracks: Prelude (My dear), In/Out, Drive, Covered in Sound, Run, Daylight Savings, Gone, Orchard Thieves, Bullet, Rhythm and Timing, Stars, Heart of Man.
Alistair “Crowly” Dickinson
Lsten to “Gone” here: