Listen For The Clues is the self-released debut album from Trumpeter Swan, the solo project of Drew Patrizi, a founding member and multi-instrumentalist of Austin, TX indie band What Made Milwaukee Famous. And while there are certain shared characteristics between the two projects, Trumpeter Swan seems to be a more personal and focused effort. Not that there isn’t a similar variety of styles and genres at play here, because there is; it’s just that the music is performed with a little less experimentation and a little more concentrated effort at creating a flowing pop song.
But these aren’t typical pop songs either. With a page borrowed from The Shins’ jangly and melodic indie-pop and Aqueduct’s offbeat energy of sprightly keyboards, Patrizi and friends (including WMMF bandmates Jeremy Bruch, John Houston Farmer, Jason Davis and Michael Kingcaid, among others) create their own sound with diverse instrumental layers, creating artistically lush songs with a sense of fun and a gauzy atmosphere, while maintaining a somewhat lo-fi tone.
With a dreamy, topical psych-pop foundation, Listen For The Clues’ piano-based compositions contain enough quirky art-rock and catchy melodies to be mentioned in the same breath as the RIYLs listed below. They also contain enough varied instrumentation, delivered in short, simple and curious bits, to form sophisticated, bedroom-style indie-rock with clever hooks hiding like buried treasure waiting to be discovered after multiple spins. Whether it’s the bossa nova-like rhythms and heartfelt chorus on “Silent Film (Noir)”, the eerie synth washes and slinky bass line on “Eternal Pessimist”, the driving guitar bursts on opener “Loose Lips” and “Fool’s Parade” or the Of Montreal-sounding crafty psych-pop on “Early Midlife Crisis”, or the tasteful horn arrangements scattered throughout, this array of earthly accents emphasizes the warm tones at the heart of each track. On top of all that, the magnetic vocals have a way of bringing usually trite lyrics about love and relationships to life with a hint of dry sarcasm and an introspective sheen similar to Coldplay.
At it’s best, floating sound effects and spunky melodies are woven with peppy beats creating a theatrical mix of pop and rock that could be compared to Brian Eno’s early solo works (think Kings Lead Hat). At it’s worst, the dreamy and bubbly pop occasionally falls flat, but remains affable and entertaining enough to warm up to. Overall, though, Listen For The Clues is an album rich in addictive jingles and hidden hooks that sound both strange and familiar at the same time that warrants repeated plays and will reward the listener with many enjoyable spins.
Recommended If You Like (RIYL): What Made Milwaukee Famous, The Shins, Baxter Dury, Aqueduct, Of Montreal and Her Space Holiday