Lofty hopes and high aspirations are the combination for anyone that wants to succeed in anything, even remotely. Even the most laid-back of people want to be noticed and praised for great works, no matter how lackadaisical in appearance they may act. And yes, that even includes Icarus Himself’s Nick Whetro and his modestly humble music. Always calm and, more importantly, looking and sounding cool, Whetro’s style was the kind that could flourish and eventually, develop. It’s an M.O. that has lead to a reputation as one of indie’s budding stars, just waiting to blossom.
His newest recording, a five-song set of spectacular music, the Mexico EP is everything anyone could have asked for and more. Sounds of folk, disguised as electro-pop, disguised as psych rock, disguised as indie rock propel the release into a strength that’s never foreboding. No, instead, Whetro and his two bandmates, new drummer Brad Kolberg and baritone guitar specialist Karl Christenson, spin off as many fantastically drastic twists and modifications to thrill every sense.
There’s a hint of a smooth, beach-inspired, conga/bossa nova vibe on a song like “Girl>Boy” but upon closer inspection it’s nothing more than a drum loop, falsetto vocals and a humming whir in the background that make up the colors of this palette. And this is where Whetro’s coolness comes into play – because he is most definitely getting into “outstanding mode” with these songs – his swagger oozes off everything and allows it to be that much stronger. Yes, the girl is always going to be on top, but maybe we can jam out and try out new sounds at the same time – it all comes off as nothing more than an exercise in futility – but at least we had fun while it lasted.
This is also the strangely older brother to the EP that preceded it, Icarus Himself. Where that release prompted a strong call for Coffins to find its proper re-release, Mexico looks to act as that same kind of tool. Only the exception lies in how marvelous all of these diverse sounds create such stunning songs. Opening with a Beirut-type of accordion riff and a booming bass that is supposed to be the substantial tuba, “Digging Holes” is the enigmatic Icarus Himself, the one that breaks out at the end to give way for the roaring trumpets, and “Seen it Coming (Mexico)” is the album’s heart-stomping closer: a stone-cold burner that destroys everything in its path.
Looking back, Coffins was unfairly overlooked when it was a genuinely catchy indie rock album, a la Spoon style. Mexico affirms that there is loads of talent here and tons of skill floating about; Kolberg only adds to everything because he provides a rock steady support that is essential.
So even for all the slackers and all the poseurs out at various posts, Whetro’s stuff is exceptionally serious and remarkably superb. Mexico is a bold step forward in every possible manner: it’s composed, it’s creative, and it’s excellent. Not only does it position the next proper album on a scale of extremely great expectations (those hopes and aspirations again?) but regardless of whether he wants to admit it or not, Whetro will nail it; hopefully he can enjoy this one a bit now, it’s well-earned.
“Digging Holes” by Icarus Himself