It’s been a long time since we’ve heard from New York City’s Ashen Keilyn, the one-woman force behind the “group” Scout. Nine years, to be exact. So if you’re a fan of Keilyn’s music, you’ve been waiting very, very, very patiently. However, Keilyn has finally returned with an album that she recorded with a little help from her friends. In fact, All Those Relays features the drumming of none other than Spoon’s Jim Eno on a few of the 10 tracks here, and also lending a hand is guitarist Steve Schiltz of the bands Longwave and Hurricane Bells. And, well, the effect is one that brings to mind the indie-pop throwback sounds of Spoon with a helping of Arcade Fire arena anthems in the mix. (The song “Golden Years”, not a David Bowie cover, sounds like someone was listening to a lot of Funeral during the writing of it.) All Those Relays is certainly an album that has been fussed over. On the song “Under Attack”, a purported 128 different tracks were laid down, including three drums, three basses and a dollop of vocals. The effect is certainly haunting, but not really gorgeous. Here, Keilyn comes off sounding a little like Liz Phair during her major label-flirtation years, and we all know how commercially and critically regarded that period of Phair’s career is.
The thing with All Those Relays is that it is simply a fine album, no more and no less. There isn’t anything that really leaps out at the listener, and the album is polished to such mirror-like reflectivity that it comes off sounding a little, at times, mainstream. You can’t help but think that a song like “Some Things Never Change” could have been performed by Avril Lavigne. And, as noted on other Web sites, Keilyn’s voice does sound like a dead ringer for early Sheryl Crow at times. However, All Those Relays does have its affecting moments, such as the acoustic ballad “Have I Said Enough”, which boasts a memorable melody. While “Hawthorne” does have a rather repetitive piano chord, it conjures up an image of glammy Queen to a certain extent. “Best for Last” has a rather Beatles-esque vibe to it, to boot. All in all, All Those Relays isn’t exactly an album that sounds like it was nine years in the making, but, for fans, it’ll be a welcome return and, as a whole, the record makes for nice wallpaper, the sort of thing that works better when you’re not paying an awful lot of attention to it. That might seem like faint praise, but there are no truly embarrassing missteps here and the album is generally solid even though it doesn’t really have a standout track. As far as poppy indie rock goes, you could do a lot worse than pick up All Those Relays. While not a revelatory statement from an artist who has been quiet for far too long, those who’ve followed Scout will be nevertheless just simply happy to have this one-woman band back.