When I think of pop music, there are few names that come to mind as people who got it right. Guys like McCartney, Cat Stevens, Elton John (with much of the credit going to Bernie Taupin). They understand the basics of writing a pop song and making it great.
What Shawn Fogel has delivered, under the moniker Golden Bloom, is a reminder that pop music can still be a thoughtful form of artistic expression.
Much of this EP you have probably heard before. Three of the five tracks were included in the fantastic split Daytrotter session with The Motion Sick and their joint venture Neutral Uke Hotel. I feel like these three, “Rhyme The Reason” and “You Go On (& On)” have been around forever (EP opener “In The Beginning” is not credited on Daytrotter, but acts as the intro to “Rhyme The Reason”). They’re a part of me now. I’ve heard them so many times I doubt I could ever forget them.
Golden Bloom’s credits go something like this: All songs written by Shawn Fogel. All instruments played by Shawn Fogel. Vocals Shawn Fogel. It would be easy for a record made this way to delve into self-indulgence, but it doesn’t. Even the last track, which is a synth-based reprise of “Rhyme The Reason,” comes off well. When that final song started playing, I was like, “What?” But after about ten seconds I started getting into it. I think the song actually plays as a great cherry on top.
Let’s get back to my original point about pop music for a second. Here’s what radio stations around the country think todays musiclovers should be hearing:
I’m talkin pedicure on our toes toes
Tryin on all our clothes clothes
Boys blowin’ up our phones phones
Pretty deep right? Ke$ha might actually be a step below Rebecca Black as far as intelligent lyrics go. Now here’s a sample lyric from March To The Drums third track, “You Go On (& On)”:
Today you see it in front of you
On the verge and you don’t know what to do
are you fightin fears that you feel inside
are you looking for truth or a place to hide?
It’s not only pop music that is suffering, either. A few years ago, maybe a decade now, there was some genius who coined the term indie-pop. Supposedly this was pop for the more intelligent crowd. Bands like Death Cab For Cutie, The Decemberists, and a bunch of others have all been unfairly collected under this umbrella. But now it seems like industry types just label everything indie-pop in order to seem appealing to a certain demographic. I’m sorry, but Owl City isn’t indie-pop (shit-pop maybe). And my fear is that Golden Bloom get categorized as being indie-pop (or STARBUCKS-pop). This EP, and previous effort Fan The Flames, is so much more than that.
Diatribe over, and back to the record now. Shawn has a perfect voice for the kind of music he writes. When he hits the highs, he really nails them. And when he goes for a more resonant tone, he pulls that off as well. When I saw Golden Bloom perform earlier this year at Schubas, there was a full band present. They played the songs off this EP and some off of the last record, and the guitar player was amazing. I can’t remember his name now, but he was just shredding the hell out of the stage. Without the help of a group, I wondered how the EP would sound before I got my copy. Needless to say, my doubtful nature was laid to rest as Shawn easily packs a punch of his own on guitar, drums, keys, bass, and synths.
Technically this EP doesn’t drop until August (but you can buy the digital version on Bandcamp). I got an early copy for being a nice guy (I don’t know how many other copies are out there, but I assume it’s a pretty decent number). And yes, my opinion of Golden Bloom may be biased becuase of my deep love for Neutral Uke Hotel and anyone associated with it. That doesn’t change the fact that March To The Drums is better than 99% of the music you’ll hear this year.
I may run another piece closer to the release date that isn’t so angry at the current state of pop music (but I doubt my anger will subside by then).