This review was originally written for GoldFlakePaint.
From the opening lines “we built our house on indian burial grounds…” The Coasts‘ frontman Ike Peters and his wavering voice are perfectly accompanied by just enough rock ‘n roll sound to measure up to his turn of phrase. The band carefully toes the line of the lo-fi style, with subdued vocals that are thankfully never overpowered by the rest of the band, a common and predictable mistake found in this genre.
The Coasts is composed of Ike Peters and his college best friend Eric Mount, though Ike lives in Arkansas and Eric in Ohio. In addition, the album was polished and produced by Isaac Alexander, who also provides the distinct bass lines on the record. This Postal Service-esque long-distance relationship project is built on a solid foundation of sound that recalls the likes of Dr. Dog, Delta Spirit and The Beatles themselves and seamlessly skims genres with tracks like ‘RIOT!’ that are reminiscent of Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm flowing right into ‘Handshakers’, a horns-infused tune with a back beat and chorus so catchy you’ll be humming it on incessantly on your commute home.
Anyone who reads my reviews will quickly note how important lyrics are to my musical standards and Peters’ writing measures up quite well. A wide variety of topics and influences arise in the album, Biblical lyrics paired with good old-fashioned southern superstition and plenty of what feels like excerpts from devoted love letters. On my personal favorite track, ‘Lullabye’ Peters writes “so let our dreams be a place we can meet/ where we can fly.” Aside from the touching lyric, his voice floats along the lull of a gentle banjo, yet is still backed by excellent percussion, one of the driving forces and strongest elements of this record.
Somehow when delivered in his slow warbly drawl, lyrics like “but now you’re gone and i feel nothing but pain/ i’d almost kill someone to feel it again” don’t sound insidious but rather, endearing, which is a good word for this record as a whole – it is soft and cuddly like a teddy bear and just as reliable as your favorite childhood toy. Without any unwarranted flourishes or unnecessary embellishments, Peters and Mount deliver music that is solid through and through, a surprising feat for the two college buddies separated by geography and the constrains of grown-up life.
Alt-Country influences along with straight up rock and roll show up in guitar licks and bass lines on tracks like ‘Hard Working Man’ and ‘Like The Prophets Do’, both of which are solid jams packed with harmonies and awesome percussion. On ‘John Lennon’ Peters tackles the conundrums that modern musicians face, as the decades of spectacular music by Lennon, Springsteen and others stand daunting before him. “i’m not John Lennon/ i’m just a guy with some songs” he admits, assuming a self-deprecating stance on a song that reflects the fears of any aspiring musician in the twenty-first century, and resonates with our generation’s awe of the past.
The album closer, ‘Tonight’, celebrates with raucous glee the enjoyment of new-found love, even ending with a chorus of laughter from the musicians themselves, as if they couldn’t contain their own mirth at the prospect of the evening’s activities. Indeed, listening to The Coasts sounds like listening to your favorite group of musicians playing together at the local bar. They know you, you know them, and the songs spring from a shared community that all of you feel at home in. Jingling pianos, well-placed beats and the occasional brass instrument create a sound so clean and fresh it almost could hark from the days when John Lennon himself strode the streets of New York City. I imagine he would have considered The Coasts a welcome addition to his iPod, had he got the chance to familiarize himself with either.