Between his junior and senior academic year at Lagond Music School in Elmsford, NY, Austin Weber released his debut solo EP entitled From the Basement. A 17 year-old multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, a variety of keyboards and percussion on this five-song record, Weber is also responsible for its arrangements, recording, mixing and mastering (he also received a little help from some friends on bass, drums and organ). This is a do-it-yourself project through and through, but the quality of production and music from the high schooler feels polished.
I should begin by noting that the album opener is a bit misleading: a gentle rock ballad that lacks the personality on display throughout the rest of the album. But while it does feel fairly vanilla, this teenage love song has its value in grounding the following tracks in a classic sense of youthfulness. So, listen on.
The second track "Up and Down" is the first clear view of Weber in his element. It begins with bluesy chords on the organ before he chimes in with: "When you're all up and down, down and out and everywhere in between...” The jazzy delivery displays his natural vocal ability and knack for melodic finesse. The repetition of the lyrics enhances the song's hypnotic nature, and the bass and drums are tastefully done. It's a simple blues/rock song that goes down like it’s been sufficiently aged—smooth, no chaser required.
"Sinking Ship" is a bouncy pop/rock song in which Weber addresses someone that he once admired but hasn't lived up to his potential or outside expectations. The catchy vocals begin with the lines, "Life was kind/ Always kinda nice to you/ Supposed to be the golden boy/ Oh, what were you to do?” The entry of the organ in the third verse and high-hat fills throughout the song are timely. When the guitar solo bleeds into the closing percussion-less verse, Weber leaves us with a feeling of completeness in the closing lines, "Treat life like it's not fleeting/ And one day you're gonna slip…"
Then there's "Sally McGee," which I love for its jazzy/doo-wop flavor. It's ingredients: bouncy piano, "ooohh-wahh-ooohs", hand claps and warnings to a cheating girl named, yes, Sally McGee, to stay the hell away. Despite it's throwback sound, you don't get the impression that he's trying to sell you something hasn't been made into his own. It might not be for everyone but to me there's something quite charming about it.
The closing track "Again and Again" is the most introspective offering from Weber. It's a slow organ-based ballad that features some of his best vocal offerings on this EP. The pensive atmosphere is filled with existential questions, daydreams about traveling and thoughts on growing up and moving on to larger experiences. He asks, "Have you ever considered just what it would be like/ When we are gone/ And everyone else simply moved on?" and then follows up with "Maybe a stone or some ashes on there own is what will be left of me."
A star-gazer, a universe wonderer who recognizes that life is fleeting and all is impermanent, Weber’s also a talented musician and charismatic performer who has made a nice debut here. If the sense of urgency to live a rich, fully expressed life as conveyed on From the Basement holds true moving forward, I think there's plenty more good music to come from Austin Weber. He's an easy kid to root for.
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