I like it when voices have the ability to anchor a song together – in that the voice becomes the heart of a piece, moving through the arrangement with enough warmth to interact with all the noise but also give an environment of cacophony a sort of steadiness. I suppose then what I really like is calm voices, low voices, a vocal range that doesn’t over project itself but gives the listener enough emotion but also assures you of what to expect. Chris Cohen’s voice has this medicinal quality – low with a bit of that melancholy high school prom singer honesty, Cohen’s voice trickles through his album like cough syrup.
You might know this Los Angeles native from other musical acts he is contributes to such as Deerhoof, The Curtains or Natural Dreamers, but Overgrown Path released in September of last year is his first solo project released under a label that is quickly becoming one of my favourites, Captured Tracks. This debut album honestly speaks more to the movement of the Indie music industry, coming out during a time where artists like Mac Demarco and Wild Nothing began gaining more exposure. Theres a tone that cuts through a lot of the male-centric musical acts that have been cropping up since 2012, and I continue to feel like its a trip back to the 80’s. Maybe its the natural way industries evolves, with the rise of electronic dance music in the past few years in mainstream music culture, almost like a secondary version of what was born in the 80’s, indie pop and rock seems to be replicating the new wave, pop rock noise of the same era.
In Overgrown Path we see a manic use of instruments, with Cohen trying his hand out with a bit of everything, inserting jagged guitar melodies and haphazard drumming whenever he feels it, but his control of his own voice is arresting and incredibly pleasurable to hear in how it gets comfortable as each song rises and falls. The above track, ‘Caller no. 99’, is my absolute favourite of the album and probably one of my most played songs of the last year. Cohen croons a song about a lonely radio host waiting for the 99th caller to ring in to the station and reveal something about himself, in some ways i can’t find a better song to encapsulate the finishing years of college life. I remember sitting on my friends bed in good ol’ Ottawa while it rained outside trying to study for some fall midterm or the other and this precious track winded itself out of her speakers – that sort of specific self centred loneliness, the wait for someone to change your life, a vague and abstract need to philosophize on ones situation – Cohen spun it altogether perfectly in a beautifully simple narrative. College Feelz man.
Optimist’s High and Roller Coaster Ride are other brilliant tracks on Overgrown Path, both making full use of Cohen’s voice in all its gooey ability to bend and dip and hypnotize the listener into a mental slow dance of delight and yearning. The tempo of the entire album remains consistent throughout – theres no crazy shit here, and to be honest its a bit sombre – like that weird high school post-dance sadness where the party was sort of shitty, your crush didn’t talk to you and your outfit was actually kind of dumb – its not the end of the world by any means, and its sort of hilarious, but that sort of sadness can fuck up an entire SEMESTER man. Overgrown Path feels like that. Chris Cohen’s honey and wine vocals feel like that. It’s warm and a bit sad and strangely familiar. And it’s perfect.