I just had a birthday a few weeks back. I’m not quite forty yet but it’s on the horizon. I’ll get there soon enough if I’m lucky. The thing about birthdays is someone’s always gotta ask you on your birthday if you feel any different than the day before. Some numb nut is always like “do you feel any older?” It’s a stupid question, an abhorrent colloquialism equivalent of a knock-knock joke. As though in twenty-four hours or so one is supposed to feel a certain age.
Does thirty-four feel any different than thirty-five? Umm let me see…no dickhead it doesn’t. But in retrospect ten to twenty years does in fact seem different because it is different. Markedly so because of life experience. If you’re smart you learn and if you’re lucky your mind just goes ahead and learns for you. You begin to see things differently than you had in the past. This is a good thing to have happen to you if you’re an artist. Some artists get better with age and others deteriorate. There are those who peak early and never do anything great again and then there are those who do some of their best work nearest to their death beds.
It might be a bit too soon to place young Portland alternative rockers The Castaway Kids in their graves cuz they’re still in high school. But a year ago they released Beach EP, an album that these very pages deemed needed to pay reparations to The Strokes. And hey maybe that was true. I had a little taste of Beach EP and I could dig what the reviewer was trying to snuff out. However The Castaway Kids’ latest offering This Wasted Year sounds far removed from this early influence. And the first thing I noticed about This Wasted Year is that Castaway Kids is trying hard to eclipse themselves from the ribald rock n’ roll which led to such sufferings as being pigeonholed as a Strokes knockoff.
This Wasted Year opens with the woozy alt country offering “September 22nd (Only The Start)” which then builds into a slightly brazen bar room rocker. Next up comes the short but sweet rocker “October 6th (Fire Docks)” followed by a dark and synth affected slow burn of “November 24th (I Hate Radio).”
They take a turn towards lo-fi on mildly heartbreaking and happy go lucky “December 18th (I Told You I'd Wait)” on which singer Tristan Jackson laments, “why do I care / why does it matter / sorry for wasting your time.” It sounds like an immature response delivered in a very mature way. Speaking of maturity The Castaway Kids sounds at the height of their new musical maturity on the catchy “January (Why Is It So Cold).” It has all the makings of an indie rock hit; a slow and jangly melody infused with blasts of trumpet and the addition of Kelly Schenk’s sweet vocals which echo Jackson’s. This indie sweetness continues on the Jonathan Richman sounding “February 14th (River Apartments Suck).” This sweetness continues on in “June 2nd (We Cool?),” an intensely upbeat jangle-rock number and bleeds into the equally jangly “July 23rd (Best of "Friends").”
In just a year The Castaway Kids sound has grown by leaps and bounds. This Wasted Year sounds nothing like its predecessor. It is full of rich instrumentation and something that their first effort lacked, heart. Anyone can make music, especially easy formulaic music. But it takes heart to make something lasting and This Wasted Year is full of heart and represents a band that has grown by leaps and bounds in a very short period of time.
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