[6 November 2007]
With an incredibly distinct voice and the ability to mine relatively minimal instrumentation for sonic depth and richness, Elsinore frontman Ryan Groff turns in one of the best solo records of the year with People in the Midwest. Classically trained in both voice and piano, Groff possesses a quavering, otherworldly tenor (which has, understandably, brought on Jeff Buckley comparisons) and it is his immediately engaging vocals that serve as guide through eight exquisite tunes which alternate between sparse folk and mature indie-rock textures. The essence of Groff’s sound and vocal presence are captured best on the quiet beauty of “Polly” and on “Haiti”, a more rock oriented track which features an almost transcendent, supernatural vocal turn by Groff; the track evolves as it goes, ending with an ambient, almost trance-like layering of vocals. Other album highlights include the trembling interplay between guitar and vocal on “Landlocked” and basic yet shimmering arrangement of “Gasoline”. People in the Midwest is one of those rare albums that, soft and fragile as it is, sweeps the listener away into Groff’s world and melds their experience with his own. This record is a beautiful, expressive, often emotionally moving statement from Groff that deserves to be heard.