Torso Incognito is the second release from Atlanta-based singer/songwriter Cory Brown, recording as The Racquet. The work on the seven-track album is entirely his: he wrote, performed, engineered, mixed and mastered everything in his home studio.
Brown describes The Racquet’s sound as a mix of “elements of noise and experimental artists like Sonic Youth and Radiohead with the compact and melodic songwriting of artists such as The Strokes and Pixies.” These influences come through clearly. Put another way, he’s taken some of the best parts of the ‘80s new wave sound, updated it with some of what’s come since, and wrapped it all around solid songwriting. The songs are strongly structured with clear verses, choruses and bridges, and feature memorable melodies. The structured writing allows Brown the leeway to build variations in the backing tracks, adding that little extra sparkle to the proceedings.
Of particular note is the guitar work. It’s terrific throughout. The rhythm parts are on-point, even evoking the Motown style at points. Leads are melodic and interesting, and Brown avoids the tempting thousand-note guitar-hero opportunities in lieu of restraint and musicality. Listen for the tones of his guitars as well. He’s laid down a wide variety of different six-string sounds, from razor-thin early-‘80s (“Poor Ramona”) to 2000s rocker (“Backseat”), and everywhere in between.
The mixing and mastering--also Brown--perform a great service to the music. He’s close to soundscape nirvana. There’s a great use of dynamics with volumes rising and falling to support the arc of the songs. Panning effects are sprinkled in where appropriate (e.g. the spoken-word bits of “Ghosted”). Further, distinct parts can be heard, if you want to pick one out, but none detracts from the overall whole. “Window Shopping” is a great example of this. There is a lot going on in the track, and it all fits beautifully into the ear space.
You won’t go wrong with any of the seven tracks here. Highlights include the angular riff and middle-section guitar work on “Debris” and the garage-rock-meets-new wave sound of “Night Terror.” Brown digs out some interesting chords for “Ghosted.” Finally, don’t miss the phrygian-tinged outro of “Poor Ramona” which might be the single best section of the whole disc.
Torso Incognito is a strong sophomore effort for The Racquet. Solid songs, terrific feel and great sound--what more could you want? Cue it up today.
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