If you wanna live the good life
Well you better stay away from the limelight
Houndmouth is back with their sophomore effort, Little Neon Limelight. Here are Jason Gonulsen’s thoughts, track-by-track style.
First thing I think of when I hear the word “Sedona” is a bunch of those people who make way more money than me, invest in stocks, have multiple cars, who call long walks on a clear path a “hike,” all living in some beautiful place in Arizona. They’re probably drinking some kind of cocktail, dressed in their white shirts, petting their pure-bred golden retrievers, kicking off their boat shoes. Relaxing. Something like that. Right? I’m guessing the members of Houndmouth have visited mighty Sedona. Long enough for them to write about a “Saturday Night kind of pink.” But come on now, we all know what that means. Catchy tune, by the way. Smart way to open the album — because it’s their best chance for a “hit” on this album. Which probably won’t happen, but I digress.
We have a new singer on track two, and her name’s Katie Toupin. Ms. Toupin’s voice is uncommon, meaning, it’s fucking unique and almost literally unbelievable because it sounds so effortless and buttery smooth. Like she’s singing from her gut but she doesn’t really know it. Katie Toupin can sing, oh yes she can sing. Good thing, too, because “Otis” is ordinary enough that it needs another gear. The Toupin gear. And with the Toupin gear, all is well.
Zak Appleby, the band’s bassist, takes the lead on vocals here. Fine enough singer, but the fact is that we now have three songs and three different voices. But maybe that’s what Houndmouth is: trying to be everything at once. This sounds like it was recorded in the early seventies in a bar where people often get knifed. The pace is furious and they’re all shouting at the end. Not bad.
“For No One”
It slows down considerably on this track, which features Matt Myers on vocals (same as “Sedona”). It’s his Dylan song, except he’s talking about acid kicking in, and then there’s this nifty audio effect where — you guessed it — the acid has indeed kicked in. Money is again on Myers’ mind. (I forgot to tell you that he kept singing about “you got the cash but your credit’s no good” during “Sedona.”) This is not a happy song, and there is clear contempt for the better off. It also ends abruptly. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
Myers is singing about trust funds and black gold. Again, money on his mind. The best part about this song is when Katie Toupin sings faintly in the background. The rest doesn’t quite do it for me — it doesn’t pass the “feel test,” which I can’t explain, so I won’t bother trying. Basically, your “feel test” is probably different than my “feel test.” Note: I’m not actually feeling anything. I just lost the majority of you. ***I reserve the right to change my mind when I hear it live.
Oh, honey slider, you say? As in honey slides, the kind that Neil Young used to make? This is my favorite song on the album because it doesn’t push its pace for the sake of being fast. Slow down, Houndmouth, and you’re more interesting. Well, don’t become Bon Iver or anything, but maybe slow down every once in a while? Which you do, so I don’t know why I’m mentioning it. I want to drink a lot of whiskey, probably Maker’s, and crank this one up and just fade away. A+.
“My Cousin Greg”
My third favorite song on the album. (In case you’re scoring at home, my second favorite was “Sedona.”) This will be a riot live, or at least in should be. It’s a festival song, made for big crowds and sunshine. Bros with their shirts off, ladies with their tan lines and all of that. Myers, Appleby, and Toupin all trade vocals. The perfect storm of Houndmouth talent.
The harmonies are perfect, and the lyrics are interesting enough. But there is something missing here, and for that reason, the Toupin gear cannot save it from being a standout track. As far as “solo acoustic” songs go, I’ll give “For No One” the nod.
Sounds like filler that was copied from a better album in the seventies. It has wings, but can’t fly, although that brief solo is nice. So, there’s that.
Somewhat ordinary until the chorus, and then we’re cooking with gas. The meat is tender and organic, and there is enough time for the chef to get it just right. “Say it like you mean it! Say it like you mean it!” YES YES YES. More of this. (And yes, that clapping is deserved at the end.)
A bluesy way to go out, but that’s alright with me. A whole album’s worth of “Darlins” would for sure scare the record execs in suits away, but four minutes or so of a slow fade isn’t hurting this album. It’s only making me wonder about the next one. Sign of success, I say.