Cobalt Cranes // Days in the Sun
Recommended Track: Last Horizon
Okay, so I had a couple of different angles that I was trying to write this review from. I started with a straightforward review of Days in the Sun with an emphasis on the muddy, buried vocal recording style. I told a story about Don Henley recording “Boys of Summer” that I heard from a friend’s father who was there, with the punchline being Don saying that “Nobody listens to the lyrics” when asked about the inane subject matter. Scratched that, start over.
Okay, so then I tried to work an angle on the Laurel Canyon by way of Joshua Tree feel of the record. Lots of open desert themes and riffs, sun bleached guitar tones, and interstate highway rhythms. But I heard some things about the Cobalt Cranes from some Los Angeles gossip and it put me into detective mode. I checked out their back catalogue and tried to learn more about the band itself and I began changing the tone of the review to reflect Days in the Sun as maybe being their “street cred” release and it just started to feel icky. I’m not an investigative journalist, I’m barely a coherent writer. I began having strange thoughts about the nature of music journalism and what it means to be pure versus puerile. So I scrapped that before I got too reductive and just plain mean.
To have this much turmoil about how to describe and review this record has probably more to do with me than the latest release by the Cobalt Cranes. I didn’t particularly like it but I didn’t straight up hate it either. It has a “running out of gas on a trip through the desert” atmosphere to it without the majesty, if that makes any sense. This kind of music feels like it wants to elicit the pain and emptiness of the midwest while finding hope in the lofty and cinematic feel of a Sergio Leone/Ennio Morricone joint. It doesn’t. It just doesn’t make it.
The eight songs on the record never stray from the verse/chorus songwriting style and they keep the same instrumentation throughout. The lead vocal, however, is swapped every once in awhile and that gives it a fresh feel from track to track. Tim Foley holds down the vocal work for half of the record and Kate Betuel handles the rest. Her songs are the best on the record, particularly “Heavy Heart”, which has one of those bumbum-bumbum bass lines that sneaks around under guitars sprinkling riffs over the top. It starts and stops in all the right places and has what feels like some emotion behind what she is singing. The standout track “Last Horizon” has lead vocals by Tim Foley and has the dynamic and the dirty hook. This is the kind of song I think the whole album should have sounded like. If you’ve ever been up too late (or early, if you know what I mean) in a border town this song should hit you somewhere in your deep and darks. I would love to hear more like these two as Cobalt Cranes continue making music.
Bottom line: It starts out level and doesn’t go up or down. There aren’t any bangers and there aren’t any stinkers. It’s about as middle of the dusty trail as you can get.