Timeline is the debut album from Los Angeles by way of Chicago group, Mild High Club. If you've been following along here, you might remember that I've been excited about them since l first learned they were playing Hickey Fest 2015 and found their debut 7" single, Windowpane, on the great California label Stones Throw. Timeline was released September 18th on Stones Throw imprint, Circle Star, and it has been on repeat in my household pretty much since then. It is fantastic as I expected, and truly lives up to the hype and the quality of their live show. Honestly, I can't think of the last time I saw a band play to a crowd of people that didn't know them and win them over so heavily, and without a lot of volume, stage antics, or crowd hyping. They are just that good. This may be a new band, but they clearly know what they are doing on stage and in the studio.
10 songs clocking in around 28 minutes feels like the perfect length for this kind of laid back, hazy journey. I love that it starts with a long instrumental intro before finally breaking into words. The sound is fresh and layered, there is a charm and immediateness to it. For as groovy as it sounds, it all feels very sincere. From the Ringo Starr drum fills on "Windowpane" to the Marc Bolan vocal delivery of "RollerCoaster Baby", I hear many wonderful echoes of classics from the past, but there are current sounds too -- the off kilter guitar tones and the overall production quality remind me of muffle pop contemporaries like Mac Demarco and Ariel Pink. Pink actually appears on one of the stand out tracks, "The Chat."
It seems Mild High Club's Alexander Brettin may share their penchant for making oddly amusing, retro future videos as well. Check out Windowpane:
They even paid tribute to Cheers in the video for "Undeniable" directed by Tudd Narson, about which Alex said, “it's about hooking up, having the balls to talk to someone in real life instead of the obscure Tinder reality.” "Undeniable."
The whole record feels psychedelic without relying largely on the audio trickery of lots of instruments and effects normally associated with the genre. The psych in this music comes from the simple arrangements and overall delivery. It reminds me of the interview Pat did with Damon from Amen Dunes at Huichica, where he was saying he didn't think these current "psych" bands he was hearing had it right, so he felt the need to make his own. Which he definitely did. But it makes you realize that the sound is more than just putting those familiar elements on a track and calling it psych rock. This just sounds like a band having some fun playing together with some stellar songwriting chops on Mr. Brettin.
For a record that isn't even a half hour long, it sure takes its time to get to the end, in the best possible way. While none of the songs are over 4 minutes long, they don't feel short or rushed. There is space, not just in the instrumentation, but in the song structures too. They each seem to live in their own skin as a part of the whole. It is the kind of album that I find myself starting again as soon as it is over. Which, for me, is a tell tale sign of a well sequenced, classic album. Just listen to the transition between the title track "Timeline"and "Rollercoaster Baby." Perfect. And so is this record.