[1 June 2007]
Ola Podrida have beaten Sufjan Stevens to the punch and recorded an aural-love letter to singer David Wingo’s Lone Star state. The record’s imagery is all swimming holes, warm nights and clumsy adolescent hands. Like Stevens, Wingo has an affinity for the minor details of life. But instead of straining for ethos where there isn’t necessarily any (Stevens’ “The Lord God Bird” comes to mind), Wingo focuses his cinematic pen on modest, everyday moments.
Wingo’s writing style has been heavily influenced by his work scoring the films of Texas-raised wunderkind director David Gordon Green (George Washington, All the Real Girls). Like the characters in Green’s small-town romance All the Real Girls, the boys and girls of Ola Podrida’s Southern America are searching (often awkwardly) for that always elusive true love.
Begun as a home-recording project, but fleshed out with a full-band, there is a certain homespun charm to the record’s production. Wingo’s voice, like the rest of the instruments, sounds untouched by any studio tricks. In his often strained, rough voice, Wingo sings his heart out, like he has to work to be heard above the clinking glasses and roaring campfire. “Everyone’s a dog / When they fall in love”, Wingo sings on the late-album standout “Lost and Found”.
Young love permeates the record, with the characters drinking at the bar, fooling around in the photo booth, waking up next to each other (“Photo Booth”), or simply lolling around the beach (“Day at the Beach”). The solo-piano “Pour Me Another” is offset by Wingo’s plaintive, strangely touching lyrics: “I am the one you’re waiting for / Pour me another shot, baby / Don’t take no shit tonight / Tell these fuckers / To all get lost”.
Comparisons to other whispery indie singer/songwriters like Stevens and Iron and Wine’s Sam Beam are understandable, but unlike other singer/songwriter records, Ola Podrida doesn’t sound like Wingo’s overreaching, but is content to simply tell a story instead of stretching for those poetic metaphors. “Jordanna” depicts a drunken sing-along in the town cathedral, and “Cindy” is an easy standout, slowly building as Wingo sings of a young girl setting fire to her house, only to run back into the flames to rescue her library books. Not without a sense of humor, Wingo sings, “She couldn’t take on any more late fees” as the song reaches its climax. Writers like to say stupid stuff about music like this being a soundtrack to your life, but really, put your life on hold for 46 minutes.