The cleverly morbid Teak Wood Gallows is the name of self-taught multi-instrumentalist Cameron Masterson’s solo project. Also a film buff and moviemaker in his own right, Masterson quite frequently makes music videos of his songs, and has even lent his music to the soundtrack of a short film.
His latest full-length album Walla Walla is hard to classify. Recorded over a period of two years, which lends time for influences to change dramatically, some songs are deeply steeped in Postal Service era electronica, while others share the pop balladry and acoustic tones of artists such as The Beatles and The Kinks, and even play around with Beach Boys style harmonies.
Walla Walla opens with the wildly synth-ridden “Alien 3”, during which the lyrics chronicle the debacle that was the making and releasing of the movie from which the song takes its title. Perhaps tongue-in-cheek though perhaps not, either way it gets the album off to a fun start. “Turned Around” features Masterson’s honey sweet vocals. As they drip from his lips to tell the tale of a man who has finally found the strength to get over an ex-lover as beat-boxed drums and scratchy guitar riffs slowly give the song the same backbone that its hero has found.
The next track “Alienation” sounds as though it could be on a completely different record, combining computerized samples and effects with straight up rock and roll guitar licks. Though strange to hear it described, the song actually works, and it turns out to be one of the catchiest and most danceable tunes on the album. Catchy and infectious in a completely different way, “Never Wear Red” combines spacey synths with an acoustic guitar riff that lingers in your ears long after the song is over.
On “Wouldn’t You Know?” Masterson showcases his acoustic balladry. The prettiest song on the album, it’s peppered throughout with xylophones that twinkle like stars. Masterson also remembers to have fun too, and does so on “The Softest Boy,” which shows influences of early Kinks, though with a bit of alt country violin mixed in to make it his own.
The only flaw Walla Walla has is that it should perhaps have been released as two separate EP’s with the folky ballads on one Walla and the clubby electronic numbers on the other Walla, which would make for a smoother transition while listening to the album straight through.
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