Great Lakes Myth Society | Compass Rose Bouquet (Quack!Media)

greatlakesmythThat afternoon, I ejected the CD I intended to review first and popped in the sophomore effort from Great Lakes Myth Society. "OK, indie band I've never heard of," I thought to myself, "wow me."

 

 

 

 

I missed the monthly meeting where CDs are distributed, so a coworker graciously picked up a modest stack of CDs for me. A few days later, he stopped me in the hallway, Compass Rose Bouquet in hand. He cradled it somewhat protectively as he told me how he wasn't sure he'd have time to review it, then asked if I like indie music. He told me this was supposed to be a really great CD, with a lot of anticipation, positive press and such. That afternoon, I ejected the CD I intended to review first and popped in the sophomore effort from Great Lakes Myth Society. "OK, indie band I've never heard of," I thought to myself, "wow me."

Here I must confess that there are plenty of indie bands I've never heard of, and in no way do I purport to be the end-all indie expert. I like what I like. And I really do like Compass Rose Bouquet. It opens with the wistful, emotionally charged "Heydays." Over restrained guitar, the singer confides, "Your house has been rented several times over by prettier girls/ Weekends and summers, bands that you loved were just haircuts and jackets/ Back then that was enough."

It's a promising beginning to an appealing album of tight harmonies and folk-inspired storytelling by the self-professed "Northern Rock" quintet. Apparently, their eponymous first album was very Sufjan Stevens-esque, a folk-rock musical travelogue for Michigan. Compass Rose Bouquet is less so, though the Midwest folk-rocking feel lives on in tracks like "Summer Bonfire." A bouncy toe-tapper, the song has an updated Simon & Garfunkel vibe and sing-along chorus. It was penned by guitarist James Christopher Monger, who trades off both singing and songwriting duties with his brother Timothy. The Mongers play a wide range of instruments on the album, including accordion, harmonica, mandolin and piano. They're joined by bassist Scott McClintock, drummer Fido Kennington and guitarist Gregory McIntosh, who also penned two of the 12 songs.

Coincidentally, McIntosh's are my least favorite tracks, and almost caused me to dismiss Compass Rose Bouquet midway through my first listen. The plaintive "March" just sounds so adult contemporary, with its dreary sax and banjo. Stick with the CD, though, because the next track "Eastern Birds" brings you back to a sunnier, Shins sort of pop-rock place. Or if it's a Decemberists feel you're after, backtrack to "Queen of the Barley Fool," an ode to drinking and love, especially the doomed sort one experiences when gazing drunkenly at the equally soused object of your affection. It's good stuff, worthy of a slot on your next iTunes play list.

The one song that absolutely will not remove itself from my head is "Days of Apple Pie." Mind you, I originally dismissed it as twee. And I don't even use words like twee. Yet this melancholy, sparsely arranged gem captures what it feels like to look back with middle-aged eyes to the pleasures of youth, knowing you can never have them back, or relive them with the appreciation you'd surely lavish them with now. James Christopher Monger writes, "I took a walk into the pines/ I left a million trees behind/ They closed the hill I used to climb/ Here's my reward."

On that note, I suggest that you reward yourself by picking up Compass Rose Bouquet, an imperfect, yet lovely arrangement of shimmering pop, Americana folk and hook-infused indie rock. B+ | Rebecca Reardon

RIYL: The Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie, The New Pornographers

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