Beltline – Welcome, Nostalgia

Welcome, Nostalgia

Although the cast of musicians who have appeared on Beltline recordings might fill your typical rock club, the focus of Beltline is exclusively Rob Jones. Jones puts together assorted pieces of songs and brings them to his talented friends, and together they work out the gritty details. On Welcome, Nostalgia, an album recorded here and there over three years, Jones is aided by Adam Selzer, Rachel Blumberg (both Norfolk & Western), Cord Amato (Wow & Flutter), and Derek Trost (Tracker).

I suppose, then, it could be forgiven if the time, the diverse people involved, and the sporadic nature of the recordings resulted in an incoherent album, but Welcome, Nostalgia feels like a cohesive full-length, with bits of a singer/songwriter feel as well as elements of all those bands whose members contributed. Jones should be applauded for keeping the songs together (as is Selzer, who tracked and mixed the album), and if some songs work better than others, it can be applicable to the diverse group of people who all lend their input.

The opening “Bang/Head/Counter” starts off as a moody Bright Eyes-esque affair, but there’s a thick layer of noise in the chorus that gives the song a completely different and raw edge. The title track picks up the pace, with a catchy indie-pop feel and a nice mix of instruments and mixing of Jones’ vocals to give it a bit more depth. Think a more rocking Decemberists on the extremely fun “Professional Abdication,” while “The Catch” is quiet and quite lovely. On “When it Rains,” the piano and strings give the song a deeply moody and wonderful quality. And one of the album’s highlights is the pretty and introspective “The New Rules,” which has female vocals drifting prettily behind the male vocals for a beautiful touch.

The album’s more upbeat and rocking tracks are extremely different, yet at times it’s where the album falls apart. On the poppy, upbeat “Fits and Starts to Fit,” for example, Jones is singing over this catchy beat, and in the background Blumberg (I assume) is dissonantly screaming like this is a riot-grrl affair. As pretty as the strings sound mixed with the distorted guitar on “Somewhere Between Theft and Inheritance,” there’s almost too much going on, pulling away from Jones’ strong vocal performance. By contrast, the oddly sparse feel to “On and On and On” and its oddly layered vocals are distracting.

In the end, Welcome, Nostalgia is a mixed affair, filled with some inspired and very deep pop songs and some oddly constructed rock tracks. The diverse artists who worked with Jones on the album added very unique voices to this release, primarily in the host of instrumentation (mixing this must have been fun), but the lack of a real band does result in some songs paling compared to the others. When his vision shines through the clearest, Jones’ songs are given a rich tapestry of sounds to elevate them beyond mere pop structures, but when it doesn’t, the songs feel a tad muddled.