As a long summer segues into a very rainy autumn I need something equal parts melancholy to match the weather but uplifting enough to remind us it’s not all that bad, The Emperors of Wyoming’s debut album certainly seems to fit the bill nicely. You may already be familiar with previous work of Butch Vig, the drummer of this outfit, who is best known as a member of the 90’s indie rock band Garbage and also for producing one of the biggest selling albums of all time (Nirvana’s Nevermind). Since playing a major part in sculpting the alternative music scene of the 90’s, it’s fair to say we can expect something pretty polished from Vig and his new band mates, and this offering does not disappoint.
This 10-track album opens with ‘The Bittersweet Sound of Goodbye’ which immediately reminds of Bob Dylan’s electric phase telling a soulful story of loss over a driving bluesy riff with a swinging country edge. This tone introduces the prevalent feeling that continues throughout the rest of the album. “Avalanche Girl” continues the musical theme set by the opener; in this case it is clearly heavily influenced by up-beat mid-west American rock in the vein of Tom Petty. This is one of the highlights of the album with a gritty, sleazy riff of a chorus which is matched by the lyrics about a romance with a reckless woman.
“I’m Your Man” turns a ballad on its head with a story of an unfaithful man in a passionless relationship but keeps it going purely for loyalty’s sake. Halfway through this album we can tell that The Emperors of Wyoming are setting themselves to sing of issues for The Everyman, telling stories that can be related to by anyone who has had a not-so-perfect relationship.
To say some of these tunes stick in your head is an understatement, by the second listen I was already singing along to ‘Brand New Heart of Stone’ without realising it. Soaring sing along choruses, like during “Sweep Away” for instance seem almost made to be sung out of tune at the end of a night out with good whiskey and better friends.
The album concludes with “Bless the Weather”, in homage to blues legend John Martyn. Building to a crescendo, this is a fitting conclusion to the album to confirm the direction and musical intentions of this group. As we can expect from someone so experienced in the studio, this album has been very well produced. It is easy to pick out each instrument individually and therefore the listener can fully appreciate the musicianship of this band. Sounds aren’t overly doctored and it gives the impression that this may have been recorded in an intimate bar rather than a recording studio.
On the whole this is a very good first album with catchy and memorable songs, however it is not overly original or innovative, there are certainly other and better examples of this genre that can be found elsewhere. Having said that if you happen to be a fan of this bluesy, gruff voiced type of music (which I am), if you invest in this album I doubt you’ll be too disappointed.
◀ STANDOUT ⁞ The Bittersweet Sound of Goodbye ▶
◀ SOUNDS LIKE ⁞ Tom Petty ▶