Album Review: Chris Pellnat’s “Go”
HUDSON – With his latest release, Go, which came out on September 16th, Chris Pellnat has crafted an album that at times is as quirky as it is enjoyable. Bordering on nostalgic sounds from genres such as early 2000’s indie-rock, and 1950’s rock, Pellnat utilizes unusual instrumentation choices to create a record that can perk up a listener’s ears from time-to-time as they make their way through the songs.
Opening the album, the titular track, “Go,” begins with relaxed bass and percussion, with a vocal that fits the tone and tenor of the piece. After the first chorus, a guitar part enters the instrumentation. During the latter half of the song, the guitar has a nicely featured interlude part, before a final chorus concludes the tune. Furthering this relaxed feeling, the following track, “Existential Dread,” has a noticeable amount of dithering with the rhythm. The sound on this song is very reminiscent of indie-rock bands from the early 2000’s. Tying down this somewhat meandering waltz, is a persistent accent on the beat of each bar that acts almost as a tether, or anchoring point.
Aside from a relaxed nature, the next two tracks, “What Are We?” and “What I Want You to Want,” demonstrate how Pellnat’s lyrical style brings about a sense of familiarity with listeners. Nothing creates any waves, so-to-speak, and floats along nicely, and often repetitiously. Having the listener’s ears glom on to something familiar is a common practice when wanting to have something get stuck in a person’s head. With “What Are We?,” synthesizers and drums make up the bulk of this song’s instrumentation during its intro. About halfway through, a highly-compressed guitar solo that utilizes a wah-wah pedal (think Jimi Hendrix and that era of psychedelic blues) comes in to the forefront, before a return of the refrain. “What I Want You to Want,” to a smaller extent, has the same type of lyrical style. There’s some quirky instrumentation on this track that sounds like a blend of Americana and indie-rock.
Another aspect of the record that I enjoy are the guitar tones that drift in and out of the mix. For example, consider the two songs “Earth Shaker,” and “Giants,” tracks six and seven, respectively. On “Earth Shaker,” the song begins with a nicely ringing-out guitar chord. Overall, a moderate tempo carries the song through at a nice pace. There’s something that really works on this one; it draws you in quite quickly. As a whole, the song, with its instrumentation, playing style, and melody that flows, brought about feelings of nostalgia to this particular listener – it is very enjoyable from start-to-finish. “Giants” blends guitar motifs that find similarities back to the 1950s, and are juxtaposed next to a prominent vibraphone part; pretty musically comical, and an effective change of pace. One thing’s for certain: Pellnat makes the most out of the vibraphone on on this record, it permeates lots of the tunes on the album. The bass interlude during the latter half of this piece stands out in an effective way – not overbearing, and tasteful. As a side note, it’s the only song to feature a fade-out as a conclusion.
If the vibraphone isn’t enough of a standout instrument on an alternative rock record, then the clarinet definitely is! And, that’s just what “Are We Going to Fly?,” track eight, offers up. While certainly unexpected, it really adds a nice flavor to this song, and the album’s overall feel. Mixing arpeggiated guitars with tremolo-effected guitars is another callback to the 1950’s-style of rock. Continuing this unexpected turn in instrumentation, the following song, “Water Wings,” features acoustic instruments, such as the double bass, and dulcimer, along with the clarinet; they all mesh extremely well in this piece.
Ending with a country-western inspired track is not something that many would expect from this type of record, and adds to an ever-growing list of quirky choices that make Go the record it is. A quick number, there are no drums on this track, and it moves along fast, drawing the listener just in time for it to be over. Drawing the listener in with a fashion such as this is a good way of leaving them wanting more, and if they are into the record as a whole, makes for a great artistic payoff.
All-in-all, Go is fairly straightforward in terms of song arrangement choices, and the melodies never particularly “take a chance,” staying right within a comfortable and relaxed setting. That being said, the unusual instrument choices, and familiarity brought forth by the lyrics are – for this particular listener – what really stand out on this record. Fans of Americana and indie-rock could very easily enjoy this album. Go and check it out for yourself here.