If there is indeed Danger on the Beaches, as the title would suggest, The Road to Ruin doesn't seem to be too concerned with the shoreline. The album finds the band tacking into the headwinds of a half century or so of Americana rock tradition, zigzagging close to the coast of established ‘70s and ‘80s sounds—as well as erring a bit further out to sea with some of the genre's goofier, ‘90s tendencies. Regardless of the course, Danger on the Beaches is a fun, if not a bit meandering, journey captained by a deeply personal, confessional frontman and crewed by a jangly, energetic band.
At its soul, Danger on the Beaches is an album steeped in classic Americana and pop-rock traditions: the ilk of Tom Petty and Elvis Costello with doses of Neil Young and The Replacements—but rather than coming off as an amalgamation of the aforementioned, the album nods alternatively in their various directions, among others, throughout 16 diverse and varied tracks.
While the album often lilts towards a high energy, power-pop brand of Americana, some of the best tracks are the handful where The Road to Ruin scales it back. Slower tracks like “Great Unknown” and “Red Water” let the vocals bob just near the surface of the mix, as opposed to the majority of the LP, where the lyrics are delivered at a notch or two above the rest of the music. These restrained, often more folksy tracks that dot the album find the band at their most fragile and enduring, the music and the lyrics both standing out on a shared stage and having maximum effect.
Danger on the Beaches also goes in a couple of other directions—songs that stick out from the rest—to varying results. The track “Puzzle Pieces” falls somewhere between a Springsteen-ian anthem and a nasally ‘90s pop-rock track. It's not a bad thing—that song comes off as one of the catchiest, single-ready cuts on the album. A couple of songs later, “Trucks” finds the band at its silliest with a Ween-line falsetto chorus about washing a—you guessed it: truck. Much like Ween there's seemingly a self-aware quality to the goofiness of it all, but much like that band, you can never quite be sure. Again, it is not a bad song, just one that sticks out on the album.
The length and variety is a double-edged sword for Danger on the Beaches. On one hand, there's nearly a dozen and a half lovingly crafted songs here with stabs in enough directions that something is bound to connect with a listener remotely interested in Americana. On the other hand, though, the album lacks the unification of sound and songs that makes a good record stand out from a good playlist. While it feels like it could be stripped down to find its intuitive structure, it meanders a bit too much to sound like one unified piece of work.
The Road to Ruin is helmed by Miles Stenhouse—a full and collaborative band, no doubt—but his deep emotional investment in the project is palpable. Recorded over several weeks at a beach house in 2013, Stenhouse spent the last couple of years tweaking and producing the effort. You can tell. Despite being an amateur production effort, each song has been polished down to the point that no aspect feels unintentional. So as much as I can bemoan the project for not having trimmed the fat, I can hardly blame Stenhouse for not wanting to kill his darlings.
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook