by Kayla Morgan (@kaym0_)
In a musical ocean flooded by musicians in a race to swim to the top of the pop culture water, it is easy for artists to get lost trying to break through the barrier. The true musicians of the youthful generation are hard to come by with experimental trends trumping instrumental technicality and melodic composition. Tioga, a band named after the group’s city of origin, values true musicianship with an honest indie rock approach.
Lodestar starts with “Young Man Now,” a track with instrumentals and composition reminiscent of some indie trends that began around 2010. The upbeat rhythm paired with catchy guitar repetitions start the album off with a somber summer feeling, similar to the Airborne Toxic Event’s 2011 hit “Changing.” This specific track captures the feeling of familiar alternative rock anthems while remaining original in lyrical themes and ability to be relatable.
The millennial indie rock vibe starts to fade after the first track, and we start to see some influences from artists of the 70’s and 80’s; however the lyrics’ topics stay consistent throughout the album. Through Tioga’s writing, the listener is taken through the band’s journey of self discovery as they find real responsibilities of adulthood. Tracks like “Catch Me If I Fall,” and “Can I Cross the River,” will be relatable to 20-somes coming to terms with making important life decisions. The raw lyrics expose the vulnerability of being on your own and craving a support system.
Lead vocalist Greg Adams booming vocals are impressive to say the least. We can’t help but be reminded of the National’s Matt Berninger, but with more upbeat tunes and less of a droning quality. However, it is in the album’s second track, “Catch Me if I Fall,” that we are reminded of how young the band is in terms of production direction. Greg’s vocals have the ability to float to the top of the music scene, but only if he and the band identify and stick to his vocal range. Much like Chris Walla’s production decision to keep Ben Gibbard’s voice at a higher pitch after Death Cab For Cutie’s first two albums, Tioga might benefit from keeping Greg’s voice at the low pitch they know he excels in.
“Wasteland,” “Flesh From Bone,” “New States,” and “Strangers on a Greyhound,” are the most synth-heavy songs, with influences like David Bowie and the Cure. With vocals from Greg, the audience is immediately reminded of 80’s alternative bands, like Depeche Mode and Tears for Fears. Tioga must have recognized the success of low vocals paired with synth, because these four tracks will most definitely become highlights for the album. Especially in tracks like “Flesh From Bone,” Tioga showcases their talents in composition and technical execution with a masterful guitar solo from Derrick Dieso, and an absolutely gorgeous organ-like key solo from Austin Paragas.
The album finishes with a bang as the band showcases their versatility in their last track, “Marcus.” Band members claimed that in their early albums they were inspired by each other, but this track shows a musical maturity in drawing inspiration across genres and subjects. The hymn-like quality of the track is familiar to churchgoers without excluding any audience members. The choice to include this track at the end of the album was a genius move, and leaves the listeners excited to hear about what will come next for Tioga.