Boy Scouts - Free Company - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Boy Scouts - Free Company

by Mark Moody Rating:8 Release Date:2019-08-30
Boy Scouts - Free Company
Boy Scouts - Free Company

Oakland based bedroom recording artist Taylor Vick (d/b/a Boy Scouts) makes the leap to a bigger label and a more “produced” sound.  Working with fellow DIY indie artist Stephen Steinbrink, as producer and multi-instrumentalist, the two create a shifting mirage of an album from the cozy confines of Steinbrink’s shipping container based recording studio.  The alchemy achieved by their pairing on Free Company results in a deliciously just out-of-kilter triumph for Vick.  Many of the songs sound like they are being played back as if 33 lost its 1/3, and should send the listener to try and playback all their favorite records at a gently impaired speed.

The opening ‘Get Well Soon’ starts with a simple enough acoustic strum that quickly yields to a heavy tremolo that invokes Richard Hawley’s pensive nostalgia.  Though Vick goes through a handful of styles, the time-warped wrapper never loses its cling over the course of the album.  The opener’s sentiment of “I brought no balloons, cause they just die too”, permeate the record from soulful crooners to exasperated torch songs. 

Over the course of only nine tracks, some couplings emerge.  Most separated by a few tracks, but the early pairing of ‘Momentary Love’ and ‘All Right’ make for an album highlight.  Vick beautifully coos her way through the former singing half a beat ahead of the rickety cogs of the rhythm.  And ‘All Right’ is a thing unto itself.  What rocksteady was to ska, Vick and Steinbrink manage to do to this sultry smudge of blue-eyed soul.  Slowing things down to a crawl, Vick sings a piercing declaration of perseverance that burns even brighter when intermittent drum machine beats kick in. 

Lest you worry that Vick doesn’t try her hand at some more “straightforward” indie rock, fear not.  The niggling itch of her guitar line on ‘Expiration Date’ is guaranteed to stay the day with you.  While the rumble and alt-county lope of ‘Cut It’ recalls the earliest days of melding styles into a hybrid vigor.  The flabby funk of ‘In Ya Too’ manages to still find a kinetic pull, while the shimmery ‘Hate Ya 2’ takes more of a pointed lounge-y route.  Lyrically Vick pulls few punches, though her wit sometimes softens the blow.  The closing ‘You Were Once’ imagines Vick as backlit chanteuse singing directly to one squirm-deserving cad: “when they ask you if you miss her, have you already thought of an adequate answer?”  Velvet glove not provided.                   

Vick’s Free Company maintains its cohesively woozy feel throughout while touching more than its fair share of bases.  The variety serves more to evidence Vick’s capabilities in an understated way without ever taking things to the point of distraction.  In a year earmarked with artists mimicking decidedly retro eras, Vick manages to brush up against a few while firmly giving everything her own stamp.  She hits her mark repeatedly on Free Company by aiming stubbornly off-center.


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