Last updated on November 20, 2020
Phoenix, Arizona has become a place where folk music crashes into psychedelic rock vibes, creating a new kind of throwback animal defying simple classification. The Lonesome Wilderness is a relative baby in the robust desert music scene, catching both fan and press attention with numerous early EPs. Three years later, the band’s first full length album, Awake in the Night, lands via Onus Records as a hot twist of tripped-out desert rock.
Producer Ari Leopold of Lava Lake Studio is familiar to fans of the Phoenix music scene. His touch has found its way to music from Ghost Cat Attack, Paper Foxes, and I Am Hologram. Andrea Golfen (Vocals) Brian Weis (Drums), Joe Golfen (Vocals, Guitars), and Paul Golfen (Guitars, Vocals) create lush sounds in a full nine-track assortment of songs, meandering through what seems like all aspects of the rich Phoenix music scene. Joe Golfen previously served as keyboardist for The Breakup Society, but that addition alone does not account for the seriously cool 1960s psychedelic work erupting from the record. This is a group effort, including the dreamlike artwork from guitarist Paul Golfen.
Kicking in with an analog feel and synthesizers that are reined in with guitars into a sense of normalcy, “Day/Night” opens a record that is steeped in contradictions. Graveled, raw, authentic vocals introduce possibly the best cut of the record in “Web”; its connective metaphor lulls listeners into a calm ease of discordant tones. Transitioning to harsh uptempo strolling grit and bass in an almost frenetic rush, “So Easy” is a bit of brilliance. Echoes of Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul” are transformed here, turning out some indie psychedelic rock dressed in modern folk finery.
“Awake in the Night” grabs at emotions through each note, touching anyone who has tried to chase a moment that has gone. Love, drugs, hopes, and/or fears resonate through the lyricism and musicality with raw, authentic aching of vocal delivery and soaring guitar until the clipped end—like a heroin overdose snuffing out another life. Purely brilliant. “Blake Smoke Clouds” brings back that same era of free love, when bands like The Beatles were singing of Strawberry Fields. An essense of that era breathes in the ending of this record, creating a transformative experience on “Thoughts on the Stair” with its transitional tempo and unconventional lyrical vocalization.
Closing the record with the bass-driven “Desert Sun” and its night road-tripping foreboding is just plain cool. The Arizona’s deserts are infamous for what has been seen in the night sky: aliens, unidentified lights, and even the abductions documented in the film Fire in the Sky. Toss it all into a blender and get out “Exit Loop” as the final punctuation. In the end, echoes of great psychedelic rock are being reborn in albums like Awake in the Night by The Lonesome Wilderness. —Lisa Whealy