This Tucson group comes off like spaced-out cowboys, lassoing bleeps and bloops and riding off on country deconstruction into some warped sunset.
It’s great when musicians beat critics at their own game, creating absurd categories to neatly box in an artist and album. Everything must be pigeonholed, sorted, and stamped for maximum compartmentalization. No music is completely unclassifiable or genre-nonspecific, no matter what iTunes might have you think. If it’s not pre-this then it must be post-that; if it’s not new then it must be no. So when I read that Golden Boots describe themselves as alt-alt country, it made me chuckle. Someone had to come up with that ridiculous designation eventually, and frankly I’m a little jealous that they beat me to it.
The ridiculous doesn’t seem to be anything new for Golden Boots, though. For seven years the Tucson group has been concocting gloriously bizarre sounds and framing them within fractured semblances of folk, pop, and country songs. The pair of songwriters behind the Boots’ strange brews is Dimitri Manos and Ryen Eggleston, both Philadelphia transplants who crossed paths at a neighborhood pancake breakfast. After their chance encounter they started making music with a mishmash of instruments and an unabashed love for lo-fi experimentalism. A few tours and a couple CDRs later they were signed to Philadelphia’s Park the Van Records, home to kindred raggedy, thrift-store pop spirits like Dr. Dog and The Spinto Band.
Winter of Our Discotheque is Golden Boots’ second album for the label, and in many ways the record is what its authors claim it to be -- an alternative to y’allternative. Just as alt-country wove in elements of rock, punk, lo-fi folk, and whatever else was lying around on the floor into the fabric of traditional American country music, Golden Boots pulls country apart at the seams and stitches up a ragbag coat of many colors, patched up with dog-eared pop and psychedelic folksy charm.
At times the Boots’ ramshackle aesthetic is reminiscent of Beck’s mongrel collages, especially when the scientologist used to creep into quasi-country terrain. On “Heatwave” catchy, burbling keyboard lines and sun-baked synths encircle a heavy, head-nodding rhythm as the singer repeats, “This lonely dream I had…” The song sounds like it could be an outtake from both Mutations and Midnite Vultures. Other times the group slips into Silver Jews territory -- if the Jews were into oddball beats and moth-eaten electronic overdubs. On “Country Bat High II”, the Boots do their best David Berman impression, kicking out kooky lines like “I had a job at an unknown station / They fed me lines from the Yellow Pages / I found God, he’s listed under magician / Do do do do do”.
The blissed-out pastiche continues on “Love Is in the Air”, where the group borrows the Morse code-like guitar line from “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” and builds it into a shabbily majestic ode to love, complete with punctuated organs and sleepy-eyed synth lines. Happy accidents, studio whimsy, and a lo-fi “we-could-give-a-fuck” attitude prevail on much of Winter as the songs and sounds ebb and flow on waves of uninhibited experimentation.
Throughout the ten songs on Winter, the Southwesterners come off like spaced-out cowboys, lassoing bleeps and bloops and riding off on country deconstruction into some warped sunset -- and what could be more alternative than that? If someone asks you what Golden Boots are about, feel free to toss in as many alt-alt-alts as you see fit.