Now Hear This: June 2019

Reviews of new albums by Sam Carp, Tristan Omand, and Back on the Train

“Select Few (2013-2018)” by Sam Carp

sam carp select few

Singer-songwriters put themselves out there more than they realize. Yes, it requires an emotional investment to tell their stories in such an intimate way, but there is also a phantom pressure for the artist to tell the story well. It takes a lot of hard work, patience, and revision for artists to express themselves.

Having Sam Carp on local label Burst & Bloom seems like a perfect marriage, musically. What’s interesting and surprising about “Select Few” is the maturity of the lyrics Carp has developed. Burst & Bloom, the indie record label and book-publishing brainchild of area musicians Guy Capecelatro III and Dylan Metrano, features many well-established artists, including Jim Rioux, Mara Flynn, and Eric Ott. In the company of these writers, Carp expands the literary element of his warm, welcoming folk sound.

Though Elliot Smith hangs over his melodies like a moody cloud, Carp offers consistent optimism in his stories. His inspiration seems to come from soft dreams, pleasant visions, and fantasies. At one point, during the song “Black Eyed Susie,” you can hear the smile in Carp’s voice as he sings about a lover from whom he has grown distant.

Throughout the six-year span of this song collection, the themes of Carp’s work become evident: his infatuation with open spaces, fields, the weather and seasons, and, most of all, love, or at least what’s left of it. With his soothing singing style, he creates a delicate, picturesque world where everything glows in translucence. When Carp sings that he’s “under-fucked” in “Corduroy,” the contrast of the phrase against the tenderness of the melody feels shocking, even for those who cuss on a daily basis.

 “So Low” by Tristan Omand

tristan omand so low

Country music has come a long way from its humble beginnings (just ask NPR). It’s ironic that a genre built on the remote nature and unique lifestyle of its artists has become one of the most oversaturated musical genres of this decade. Too often, country music has been imitated and watered down to the point that you can no longer sense the intimate feeling that once defined it.

Unlike mainstream country, Tristan Omand harnesses the sound of country from the 1950s and ’60s. Omand pays tribute to an era of music when artists like Bob Dylan, Hank Williams, and Johnny Cash could still be considered country, before their sound was wrongfully lumped into the “folk” category.

In his new album, “So Low,” Omand performs more intimately than ever. The stories he tells have you hanging on every word. The local singer-songwriter has a talent for creating these unique pauses between stanzas in his lyrics, leaving the listener waiting to hear the witty or sorrowful confession that comes next.

Omand thrives in intimacy, in pointing out that solutions in life aren’t as simple as finding “a neon church” or “watching cigarettes burn out.” His guitar opens your heart and his vocals share stories of mountains at the end of the road. It’s a much needed reminder that life’s struggles, and not only their solutions, can result in beautiful art.

 “Less Talk More Play” by Back on the Train

back on the train less talk more play

With the explosion of political commentary in pop culture (which some would argue is essential in a time like this), it’s difficult to find bands that are just… fun. Even bands that previously had no political agenda have come out with songs fueled by the disdainful upheaval we are going through right now.

Through their new album, “Less Talk More Play,” local band Back on the Train reminds us that we can still unite for the simple incentive of having a good time. With Seacoast contemporaries like Harsh Armadillo and Amulus, Back on the Train helps us remember how important escapism can be in music. Sometimes we can — and should — gather for no reason other than to have a drink and dance for a while.

Based in roots rock and indie pop, Back on the Train’s incorporation of funk, soul, and reggae creates a musical melting pot of every fun bar band you’ve ever accidentally walked in on and ended up staying until last call to see. Though the band is technically a power trio, the new album incorporates musicians from all over the Seacoast. The three-piece introduced saxophone, keys, and a second guitar to give the band the full feeling of a festival act.

It’s been six years since Back on the Train released their debut album, “Instantly Stronger.” After all those years, “Less Talk More Play” explodes with pent-up energy, like the release of a long workday finally ending. While bands like these thrive in the live setting rather than dealing with the constraints of the studio, this could be the perfect summer album.

With “Less Talk More Play,” Back on the Train’s philosophy is a fitting way to end this review: “Shut up already and start dancing.”