Washington, D.C.'s Brad Ulreich, who is Richard Blue, is clearly in love with English music. His self-titled debut Richard Blue rolls up three waves of British invasion into one tasty morsel. Woozy, kaleidoscopic '60s psychedelia meets Brit-pop, with a lemon zest of '90s power pop punk. Although this is Ulreich's solo debut, he's been active on the D. C. scene for some time, having played in the bands Mother and Pale Brother, and it shows. Utreich's got CHOPS, particularly in the realm of songwriting and arrangement. He's also a talented multi-instrumentalist, playing nearly every part on Richard Blue.
A large part of the success of Richard Blue is due to the recording, mixing and mastering. A great album will sink like a stone, if its guitars sound like gutter scrapings. But Richard Blue is impeccably recorded and mixed: the guitars are warm and full, the vocals are deliciously multi-tracked and totally in key. Richard Blue follows an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink production regime, but the small Salvation Army Marching Band of organs, mellotrons, vocal harmonies and ghostly accordions are each given their own space and left to breath.
This means there is nothing to break the reverie, and Richard Blue pulls you under its spell and keeps you there. It grows on you, with its infectious melodies and magical lyrics, and each successive listen reveals fresh delights, like the insanely catchy guitar hook of album opener "Wound Queen,” or the weird Parisian sound sculpture of "Root.”
The recording and mix is nothing short of a total miracle and is a red flag that Brad Ulreich is a talent to watch, as most of the recording was done at home on a laptop and later mixed by Ivan Basauri and mastered by Dave Harris at Studio B in Charlotte, NC. The fact that he took the trouble to have his record mastered shows that he is serious about his music and having as many people hear it as possible.
The predominant mood of Richard Blue is '60s orchestral pop psychedelia, which is augmented with the occasional '90s pop punk vocal harmonies or industrial grunge shimmer. It's simultaneously like the first wave of '60s psychedelic rock, particularly The Beatles, as well as future mutations, '80s Paisley Underground, like The Soft Boys, '90s Brit-pop, like Blur or Oasis, lashed with industrial stadium psychedelia, via the likes of the oft-forgotten Failure. In addition to all of this, fans of the Elephant 6 Collective, Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control, especially, will fall in love with these kaleidoscopic mantras.
The only faltering is some of those emo harmonies, which I could do without. I've never cared for that style, which smacks of forced epic-ness and somewhat dates this record, in a bad way. If I were Ulreich, I would ignore that era, in his musical jambalaya.
So light some sandalwood incense and turn on the lava lamp, as you are transported by Ulreich's stories of interstellar travel and jungles bursting out of hallway closets, heartbreak and loneliness, all filtered through Ulreich's love of all things British.
I love this record, and can't stop listening to it, and I think you will too.
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