An epic overture opens A Trip To The Woods, the promising debut album from San Diego based Bellbottom Laser. Three-and-a-half minutes is all it takes for Laser, the one-man band of Bryce Jacobs, to cover psychedelia, spoken word funk and rev’d-up rock in the style of Cursive. In fact, Jacobs shares several qualities with Tim Kasher past the obvious vocal similarities: instrumental inventiveness, conceptual thought, and a DIY mentality suited for the BandCamp landscape.
Jacobs’ primary interest appears to be in genre blending, whether it’s the garage rock Jet meets Maggot Brain funk of “Rain Song” or the Brit punk meets Summer of Love blues rock of “Wake Up.” There’s an affection for lounge music chords, found blended with Animal Collective dance on the instrumental “Acid Testing” and the despondent Roger Waters imitation of “End Of The Night.” These mixes are well executed, creating an overall sense of world-building over ten tracks that feel like more. Negatively, the effect of the mix can come occasionally off as “scratch dj”-ish, with too much blending acting as a distraction more than a sonic experience.
As versatile a vocalist as a producer, Jacobs goes low as a midnight feeling on “Don’t Delay,” gets possessed while taking “A Break For The Funk” and evokes the shaky- emo of Connor Oberst on “The Drifter Travels Light.” Laudably, there’s rarely the sense you’re hearing more than one vocalist, which tends to happen when new artists attempt so many styles on a project. This doesn’t mean his choices are infallible however, “Zelda Fitzgerald” is this album’s lowlight not just from a wavering and unsure lead, but questionable background hollers as well.
Bellbottom Laser took a hard look at the end of teenage life and managed to coherently translate his observations into a solid debut album that uniquely tackles its subject matter with less angst then one would expect. The songs are well crafted, though more memorable for the performances and playfulness then for outstanding tunes when it comes down to it. With years ahead of him Bryce Jacobs will have time to refine his tastes, advance his technique, figure out what makes a song great and undoubtably release a work of true substance at some point in his musical journey.
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