Welcome to the first installment of a new series titled Rock ‘N Mailbag! For a few months now, I’ve been getting solicitations via email from independent artists wishing me to review their albums. I’m not sure how these people are finding me, but rather than dismiss them, I’ve decided to listen to them and give them a little love.
This first installment of the Rock ‘N Mailbag! will be devoted to Philadelphia singer-songstress Gretchen Lohse’s latest album PRIMAL RUMBLE. A little research shows that Gretchen was in a band called Yellow Humphrey prior to striking out as a solo artist. Right away I was determined to review this album based solely on the David Bowie-ish album artwork. Depicting Lohse as a medicine cabinet/astronaut, I was prepared for freaky stuff. To my surprise, PRIMAL RUMBLE is a gentle folk and jazz tinged album full of quiet reflection. The album is understated and tastefully produced with interesting, but not overbearing keyboards and a glockenspiel.
Gretchen’s voice is soft, but strong throughout PRIMAL RUMBLE and reminds me a bit of She & Him’s Zooey Deschanel. But whereas Deschanel is at times annoyingly twee and indie, Lohse retains artistic credibility by avoiding clichés and staying interesting (read: slightly strange). Stand out tracks for me were the lopping, gentle ballad “Rings” and the flute-filled “The Cuckoo.” Both of these songs, like the rest of the album, seem both really sad while at the same time being upbeat. The whole album feels this way, confusing but in a pleasant ethereal sort of way.
Really I only have one quibble with PRIMAL RUMBLE: for album with such a strong title, this album is way too low-key. All the songs seem to float along at the same temp: slow. I’m okay with albums having consistent moods, but I would have liked for a little bit more pep. Just one or two perkier songs would have livened things up. “The Cuckoo” and “Spider At The Gate” feature unique and interesting musical flourishes, but even these make it difficult to set these tracks apart from one another. Remember, I’m a guy who has a Guns N’ Roses-themed blog, so take this complaint with a grain of (rock) salt. I am interested in what Yellow Humphrey sounds like, only to see how Gretchen’s voice works in a larger band setting.
This sort of dreamy folk-pop isn’t my usual cup of tea, but I enjoyed PRIMAL RUMBLE enough to recommend it for people who like She & Him or Joni Mitchell. PRIMAL RUMBLE is available on Spotify and you can download the album at Gretchen’s Bandcamp website for $6.00.
HAVE A HOT TIP? WANT ME TO REVIEW YOUR BAND’S SONG/ALBUM? HIT ME UP AT DEFENDINGAXLROSE@GMAIL.COM