New Mystics - Smile With Your Teeth

by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:7 Release Date:2017-08-18

Josh Onstott, or should I say New Mystics has been around for a while, gaining a bit of notoriety with his “regular” band Other Lives, with one of their songs appearing in an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” whose musical editors usually have good taste in their musical choices. With New Mystics and their (his) debut Smile With Your Teeth, he has ventured into solo territory. Elsewhere, they really seem to love this album, and when you look at all the names that are mentioned as name-checks, it really sounds appetizing: Neil Young, CSNY, Donovan, Fleet Foxes, Beirut, War On Drugs; a serious list of names old and new. But, how close does it come to any and all of these names?

If I tell you that it comes close to all, and that most of the time Onstott mixes these influences quite well, that should be a good thing, shouldn’t it? Yes, it should, but in the case of Smile With Your Teeth, not quite. The problem is that most of the time, and particularly in the first half of the album, the songs sound a bit undefined. They are quite pleasant to listen to, but they sound like their identity is somehow fuzzy. All is pleasant; good, solid vocals and instrumentation, but all the way up to the middle of the album and “Stargazer,” they all somehow get lost in their mid-tempo.

From there on, things somehow pick up as if Onstott saved his better stuff for the second part of the album. “Stargazer” has a very distinct guitar sound, and “Colour In The Clouds” boasts a good melody that finally best uses the mid-tempo Onstott favors. “Rebels” has some nice psych flourishes, a good melody, and Onstott's best vocals on the album, while “Sparrows” acoustic treatment should have been employed more on other songs on the album.  “Left, Left, Left, and Left Again” closes the album on a very positive, but brief note, and begs a question - what happened to the songs in the first part of the album?

All in all, a mixed affair that shows good promise, but has not delivered in full.

 

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