Album Review: “Authentic Earth” by Curious Comet
What do you get when you mix together indie rock, alternative, dashes of progressive rock and a strong sense of DIY aesthetic? Why, you get Curious Comet’s (formerly Bleak Little World’s) debut album, Authentic Earth. The album opens with their song, “Gone,” which features snarling, classic single-coil guitar tones.
As it progresses, vocal harmonies begin, and they remain until its end. With guitar solos reminiscent of those heard in classic 1960’s and 1970’s records, it’s quite clear what some of their influences are. That being said, however, Curious Comet, consisting of Niki Kaos and Bob Donald, make sure to let their listeners know they aren’t a one-trick pony.
For example, the title track, “Authentic Earth” (track two), incorporates a myriad of interesting songwriting techniques – meter changes, and tempo changes being the most prominent examples. Parts of the song are orchestrated and written out to the point where it begins to sound like a movie score. A song steeped in existentialist thoughts, it sheds light on the level of depth within the album’s lyric.
Oscillating between songs that contain a full-band sound to some that are more stripped back and bare helps to break up the monotony in the album. Examples of this are on the songs “Again and Again” (track three) and “Round Bales” (track four). While the former has mellow instrumentation – crisp guitar and vocals – the latter features a much more intense sense of instrumentation. In fact, in parts of “Round Bales,” there were guitar solos that played over the top of some of the verse melodies. While this is a unique production choice, this listener feels the song could have benefitted from having more room to “breathe,” so to speak. Near the song’s conclusion, we hear harmonized guitars playing the chorus melody, a very nice addition to this piece.
“Drowning” (track five), is by far my favorite track on the entire album. As the energy of the album sinks during this song, we are able to immerse ourselves entirely in the plaintive guitar part that plays throughout the entire song. Coupling this with the subtle cello part in the background (performed by Will Hayes), and grasping the lyrical content within this piece, “Drowning” truly is the most touching, vulnerable, and powerful song on this album. It was interesting to hear Niki call back to a previous song on the record when singing the lyric, “I’ve got my bag of mistakes, so I could stop, wish I could stop, so I can stop making them again and again and again.” Whether or not this reference was intentional, it definitely grabbed my ear.
Part of what I really enjoyed about this album is the fact that Bob and Niki took it upon themselves to record all of the instruments – except the cello – themselves. Not only does that show a sense of DIY, as mentioned previously, but I feel it also gives an overall “air” to the record in terms of independence and the tone with which it is set. The album closes with the track, “Uncle Bob.” In many ways, it reminds me of “Drowning.” It is different, however, in one key factor: acceptance. While there is still a level of sadness to this song, it contains a conclusive and resigned air. Through her lyrics, Niki brings to light a sense of acquired nostalgia and the feeling that while things may not be great, an appreciation for what she not only has, but has gained.