We live in an age of nostalgia. Everyone and their mother participates in the practice of throwback Thursdays, and decade referencing decadence runs rampant across all forms of digital media. Music is not inoculated from this rose-colored wistfulness. You can trace the current of retro-futurism through aural bloodlines that run from garage-rock cultists straight through to Soulquarian acolytes. Nostalgia is a worn sweater handed down from your grandparents, to your parents, to you, and every generation wears that garb with varied aplomb.
Keath Mead, in particular, wears it quite well on his debut album, Sunday Dinner.
As his bio-blurb on the Company Records website says, Keath picked up his first instrument after seeing A Hard Day’s Night, and he mines a chordal and lyrical territory not dissimilar to that more wide-eyed era of the Fab Four. For the most part these are songs about love; lost, found, unrequited, and well-returned. That’s not to say, that this is one-dimensional music. There’s a duality and depth to Sunday Dinner that repeated listens reveal if not at a less than ideal pace. Keath sings in an elven croon that is somehow crisp and soft at the same time. His vocal phrasing and delivery is calculated and mature, but he maintains a vocal timbre that evokes a youthful spirit. The album alternates smoothly between wobbly piano anchored ballads, delicately finger-plucked odes, and catchy classic rock tinged head-bobbers boasting hooks and choruses that build a comfy nest where your memory resides.
The production takes this duality to heart by pushing Keath’s voice and guitar to the forefront, while adorning the perimeter with swooshes and echoes that swim around the core but never push right through. Chaz Bundick (Toro Y Moi, Les Sins) took the helm on the engineering and production of Sunday Dinner, and he makes sure that every part gets its space and time to shine. His touch is apparent in those ethereal phases and burbles, but it is always subtle, acting more like modern frame for a faded photograph.
There’s an anxiety in some of these tracks that can’t be denied, though. Keath often sings about a fear of aging, or at least his own cautious awareness of it. His is the generation of the quarter life crisis, and he hit’s on that in the opening lines of his closing track “So Close” singing, “Oh what a shame to go on living thinking you’ve passed your better days. Every chance that you were given was a mistake waiting to be made.” He has said in interviews that he has been writing songs for a long time, but never really put them out any further than his friend’s ears, choosing instead to play the sideman in other people’s bands. With this strong debut it seems he’s done passing up chances, and has gotten a knack for avoiding the mistakes along the way.
– Jack H.