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Lost Lander

DRRT

(Glad I Did Recordings; US: 17 Jan 2012)

The music video for Lost Lander’s “Cold Feet” is composed of one night’s worth of television viewing, shot from director Jonnie Ross’s iPhone and then cut up into a pastiche of random scenes, some obscure and some archetypal within the collective consciousness of American popular culture. It’s a concept that works as a powerful critique of compulsive 24-hour media consumption as movie images of car chases and explosions are juxtaposed against news footage of war, disaster, and Anderson Cooper’s affectedly poignant gaze. The song’s lyrics call for a rejection of this culture of obsessive overstimulation as vocalist and songwriter Matt Sheehy sings: “Go sleep awhile / Too much conversation / Too much information / I’ve got to turn it off”. This theme—disconnecting from our media and technology saturated lives to return to a more natural state of being—is a thread that runs throughout Lost Lander’s debut album, DRRT.


In addition to being the primary songwriter, vocalist, and instrumentalist for Lost Lander, Sheehy also works as a forester in the Pacific Northwest, and the album was recorded in various locales throughout that dramatic and rain-soaked landscape of evergreen rain forests and rocky ocean shores. The result is a sense of closeness and connection with the natural world that permeates these finely crafted indie-pop songs. Sheehy is no musical luddite, however, as his compositions meld organic sounds of guitars, strings, and pianos with the cut-and-paste electronic accents that are characteristic of producer Brent Knopf’s work with his former band Menomena. The result is an album of honest and affecting songs that seamlessly combine elements of folk and pop with an innovative use of loop-based production techniques.


Album highlights include the opening track “Cold Feet”, which captures all of Lost Lander’s strengths through its combination of Sheehy’s melodic sensibility and steady vocal delivery with Knopf’s carefully constructed production aesthetic. Later, on “Dead Moon” Sheehy stretches his voice to a higher range in both tone and volume, lending the track a sense of urgent longing that punctuates the album’s general mood of searching, sadness, and wondering after nature’s redemptive promise. The instrumentation is inspired and gorgeous throughout, as Sheehy and Knopf enlisted a collection of talented musicians from their home town of Portland, Oregon, including Nick Jaina and Akron/Family’s Dana Jenssen and Seth Olinsky, to expand upon the songs’ straightforward pop structures. Nicole Portley’s string arrangement on the acoustic based “Through your Bones” is particularly striking, lending the song a dramatic and stately character that is reminiscent of Will Oldham’s work as Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy.


As a songwriter, Sheehy is a confident and refreshingly genuine presence. On his own, he could stand among his peers within the realm of heart on your sleeve indie-pop. However, on this album, it is Knopf’s attentive and creative production work that emerges as the most distinctive sonic element. He builds upon the solid foundation of Sheehy’s songwriting, reconfiguring and expanding upon these structures through coalescing layers of electronic and organic sounds. Fans of Knopf’s work with Menomena will surely find much to appreciate here as he turns that band’s unique approach to the writing and recording process outward and finds a worthy muse in Sheehy’s Lost Lander project.

Rating:

Robert Alford is a writer and a critic who lives in Seattle. His work has appeared, most recently, in Paste Magazine, Bookforum.com and Real Change News.


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