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BEACH BOYS AND BACH
Have you ever gotten into your car, turned on the radio, listened to the beginning of some song, and then said to yourself, "Oh my god, this sounds like (insert band name hear)!"
Since listening to Mike Walker's self-titled release -- that feeling hasn't gone away. The material on the album seems to be cut from the same indie-rock cloth as the music of his Californian contemporaries like Death Cab for Cutie or Elliot Smith (RIP). Both of whom are omnipresent on radio and film and commercial soundtracks.
Every instrument on the album was performed by Walker and was almost entirely recorded in a single room in Fresno. This by itself doesn't set it apart from the average material to issue forth from a Fresno bedroom, but finding a home recording that sounds as crisp as this one is unheard of. The production on the album is lush. Warm, present vocals and crisp, distinct guitar tones help to define each of the eight tracks on the album.
Walker sticks to the rules of rock songwriting, writing well-penned romantic verses that wind their way into aggressive, but not too aggressive, pop choruses.
The most distinct parts of the album are the bookends. The composition on the first and last tracks is far more open-ended and idiosyncratic than the fare sandwiched between it. The opening track takes great advantage of the ultimate Walker secret weapon: his voice. Walker's cherubic voice sounds awesome when it's overdubbed on itself -- forming a texture that's reminiscent of both the Beach Boys and Bach. Many rock singers can't sound pretty and be convincing at the same time, but Walker can.
The last song on the disc, "The Heat of the Summer", is built around a vocal arrangement that sounds like the Flaming Lips, but here Walker's sound proves more ethereal and otherworldly than even Wayne Coyne. The deep reverb, the steady strum of the guitar, and the colorful harmonies create a profound and slightly psychedelic sound.
Of the middling tracks, the sparse ballad, "Alaska", featuring the simple pulse of an acoustic guitar, is the most lyrically sophisticated. The way Walker sings the line, "So I suggest/ when the road splits in two/ you go left/ I'll ditch the car and be there soon", is the sort of uttering that can bring conversation in a room to a standstill.
Unfortunately, Walker has been plagued by an inability to get this record released. Currently he is working with 3FMrecords who, he insists, are working diligently to snag him a distribution deal. But nothing has yet to materialize.
Mike Walker will be performing this Sunday at the Famous Festival. For more info on his album, or to take a look at the music video for his single "Play this Song at My Funeral", check out 3fmrecords.com