ReedKD, one of Independent Clauses’s favorites when it comes to pop/folk with electronic leanings, has released a mesmerizing and hilarious video for “Hippie Chicks” off his latest album “When the Comet Comes.” It features robots from space dancing, a hippie chick dancing, ReedKD dancing, and dinosaurs squawking. Worth your time.
There’s nothing more invigorating than popping an album in and being hit with a great song to kick off the album. ReedKD accomplishes this impeccably with “This Is It,” the opener to In Case the Comet Comes. The first sound is a wildly strummed mandolin, followed by a bass drum, tambourine, claps and vocals. The motifs of the album are laid out in full before “This is It” even finishes: acoustic instrumentation, instantly memorable melodies, yearning lyrics, folk/pop sound, capable of being uptempo but also comfortable in the slower vein, and established as part of a full-band aesthetic (even if the band is simply providing handclaps and bass drum hits).
Yes, “This Is It” is so good that it shouldn’t be legal to have a second track just that improves upon the formula. But “If the Tide Swings” does just that by adding a full band to the mix, with prominent bass guitar, fuller drum presence, accordion and more. It’s feels like all the members of the band are playing their hearts out, maybe at somebody’s house party somewhere. It has that loose, organic, passionate feeling, although the sound is crisp and the performances tight. It’s been immaculately made, but it doesn’t sound overproduced or thought to death. It’s clean, tight, and adrenalizing.
After the initial bang, ReedKD follows a road map eerily similar to the one laid out by previous effort The Ashes Bloom: slow numbers interspersed with some uptempo pieces and a sole electronic pop piece. His uptempo work is much improved this time around; “Cactus Garden” and “Sleepless Nights in Bed” kick the junk out of the older works due to the experimentation with other instruments. Playing drinking glasses is a great move, only improved by some muted brass picking up the slack in the chorus of “Sleepless Nights in Bed” (a highlight, for sure). The hoedown fiddle of “Cactus Garden” also lends a bit of unusual kick to his sound.
But his slower work is a bit too slow this time around, causing some lag in the album. “Space Vacuums” drags on for almost six minutes, which is far too long. “Lake Missouri” moves at what can only be described as a glacial pace. Closer “Splinters in the Evening” is too stately for the rest of the album, sticking out like a sore thumb. It’s understandable that the slow work is a bit off, though; in his previous album, Reed was everything. Reed’s deft acoustic guitar skills picked up the slow pieces on their own. When adding in and causing other instruments to carry tunes, as the bass does on “Lake Missouri” and the piano does on “Splinters in the Evening,” some of Reed’s skill gets muffled in the transition.
In Case the Comet Comes starts off with a bang and provides some great folk/pop moments along the way. There are a couple potholes on the road, but the majority of the tunes are catchy, peppy, and fun. If you like Josh Ritter, Josh Rouse, Avett Brothers, or David Shultz, this would make a good addition to your collection.
Reed KD – The Ashes Bloom
If humans had cryogenically frozen Simon and Garfunkel, somehow managed to splice their genes together and then dumped the resulting musician in Northern California today, we would have another Reed Dahlmeier: the namesake and the creative engine under the hood of Reed KD. On The Ashes Bloom, Reed KD’s first full-length album, Reed provides impressive instrumentation: vocals, acoustic guitar, slide guitar, mandolin, harmonica, piano, Rhodes, keyboards, bass, accordion and programmed beats. This would normally only raise an eyebrow, but Dahlmeier himself plays all of these instruments while harmonizing with himself!
Joined by siblings Hal and Brice—drums and piano on “Road Flares” and “Sinking Stone,” respectively—and Michael Peimani—drums on “Sinking Stone” and “Even If I”—Reed Dahlmeier croons with a slight breathiness that’s simultaneously lonely and endearing. The twelve songs on The Ashes Bloom focus thematically on love, but they do so obliquely, such as in “Say You’ll Miss Me,” when Dahlmeier’s voice nearly fades beneath the country-folk rhythm of a twangy acoustic guitar, singing: “So now we will do what we have to / and cut burning branches.”
Nowhere does The Ashes Bloom run short of poetically-inclined expression. The images Dahlmeier connects are, once again, subtle but powerful. He opens “Travel Sick Blues” by relating: “Bought a van missing half a bumper, / turned the back to my place of slumber, / then hit the road on a short road trip, / though my plans were indefinite.” Such seamless rhymes come effortlessly to Dahlmeier. The song opens with a classical-sounding guitar tumbling down a scale then moves into a snappy, folksy hand-strummed rhythm that fittingly carries the stripped-down tune. The only other instrumentation on “Travel Sick Blues” consists of a brief, lilting harmonica and Dahlmeier’s airy falsetto harmonies fluidly accenting his melodies.
Despite the obvious parallels to the latter, Reed KD isn’t content to be pigeon-holed as a Simon and Garfunkel knock-off. “Sinking Stone” makes use of piano, keyboards and the Fender Rhodes, while “Roll Over” and “You Can Call Me” (my personal favorite track on the album) layer programmed drums on that mix.
I think these were Reed KD’s self-described “experimental folk” songs, although they stay firmly rooted in pop-folk melodies; but those who might cringe at the term “experimental” stay on board…The Ashes Bloom is well worth a prime spot in your listening rotation.
“You Can Call Me” is one of the best mixes of a 60’s-sounding folk song with a catchy, drum machine beat I’ve come across. The first time I heard it, I wondered if another artist had been spliced into the mix. A warbling synthesizer hums a low introduction to some programmed drums before a minimalist snare-snare-bass pattern and a falling lead-guitar line enter. The chorus is lyrically simple—“You can call me / anytime you’re feeling lonely. / I’ll do my best to be your friend. / But believe me / I know that it won’t be easy. / I never wanted things to end.”—but the irresistible beat, undeniable guitar melody, the sound the words carry and the fitting rhyme stay with you from the first listen.
There’s not a bad song on the album, and I had a tough time picking a favorite from so many great tunes. If you like folk-rock… if you like guitar and catchy, beautiful melodies… if you like Bright Eyes or Simon and Garfunkel or Rocky Votolato… if you like good music, buy The Ashes Bloom.
—Timothy C. Avery
Best element: Very comforting and accessible.
Genre: Mellow Indie
Label: Dirty Laundry Records (www.dirtylaundryrecords.com)
Band E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
ReedKD is brilliant when it comes to making a melody. While that’s important in any genre, in the genre of mellow singer-songwriter, it’s everything. This 5-song pre-release of his as-yet-unnamed full-length is simply stunning, and it’s all because the melodies are fantastic. Whether it’s a vocal line, a guitar line, or a piano line, the result is always the same- calming, familiar, and entrancing. If you want to chill, there is no better artist than ReedKD- “Seventeen” is perfect evidence. The subtle use of electronics underlies a plodding keys line that propels the dreamy song. The soft, sure, clear vocals ring out with a sweet clarity that is unrivaled anywhere in the album. It’s a genuine tragedy that the song is the shortest on this prerelease, as it is a track that I could put on repeat all day and just chill.
The slightly more apocalyptic vein of “Moving Parts” displays the emotional weight that Reed can pull- instead of being used to soothe, the keys here accentuate feelings of loss and alienation. “Say You’ll Miss Me” displays a bit of an alt-country accent in the guitars, while pulling in some Death Cab for Cutie influences in the vocals. The Fountains of Wayne couldn’t have asked for a better pop gem than “Drive Away”, which closes the album in a brilliant manner.
Overall, there’s not a better way to spend a day then taking a long trip with ReedKD on the stereo. Or maybe just chillin with Reed on the stereo. The singer-songwriter world has another gem in ReedKD- pretty soon the general public will discover it.