Opener "Here I Am" is, for a track that's so middle-of-the-road retro that it's nearly yacht-rock, purely fantastic and sets an unexpected tone: "Here I am/I make the bed I make myself sleep in/The same idiot I've always been" is the chorus that comes shortly before "I'm getting my fill of being a fool for hire." There aren't a lot of songwriters out there who use self-deprecation as an introduction, but, you know, here he is. And this might be one of the best songs to come out this year.
Years ago, Lamkin expressed an interest in seeing his band dabble in electronic music, and though he indeed dabbled the tiniest bit with a synth, the Soft Pack seemed aware of its strengths and limitations, and what they were great at was being a modest rock band with a lot of power. Part of this was in Brian Hill's drumming. He really was a fantastic drummer. On his own, Matt Lamkin experiments much more than he could've in an established group, though he's a now-33-year old who still sings like a 21-year old Jonathan Richman and pulls off a few songs that could have worked with his old band (namely "Can't Give it Away Anymore").
The most exciting aspect of this record is how cohesive it isn't; its order was well-sequenced, but no three consecutive songs have anything to do with one another. You might get the sense that he's becoming much more carefree with age and giving himself the space to ask what if? He's growing increasingly out there as a musician, perhaps in the way Ariel Pink is considered "out there." But creating with a carefree approach – this is how musicians ought to age, and this record is enough of a peek into his head that it'll be lovely to anticipate what pops up from him in future albums.
Listen to a far-less produced and less lethargic version of "Los Andes" from 2014.