If variety is the spice of life, then Cloud Clipper is doing particularly great. The quartet’s album, Drifty, features ten tracks, ranging from indie rock to Americana-tinged jams, with enough variations in sound that at points this release ends up sounding like a pretty cool various artists compilation.
Featuring Alec D. Moore (songwriter, lead vocals, guitar), Peter Nagy (drums), Josh Smith (guitar), and Colin Tedeschi (bass), Drifty is a grower. To be sure, you’ll find gems right off the mark, starting with the melodic punch of the first two tracks. The proceedings start off strong with the title song. A radio friendly alternative mid-tempo rocker, the songs’ mood swings and sing-along hooks make it the album’s obvious single. A couple of plays of this one and you’ll swear it’s a long-lost favorite. That said, my favorite song here is “Georgia Pine,” a sweet jangly shuffle about getting high, which reminds me a little of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, with a close second song being the adrenaline-charged rocker “Woolgathering.” Clocking in at 1:36, at least under this particular sonic incarnation, Cloud Clipper wouldn’t be a bad tour mate for Husker Du. Powered by Nagy’s drums, it’s a whirlwind of guitars and shouted vocals. Also good is the mandolin and harmonica-highlighted country lament “Boom Swinger Blues.”
Although everything is well played, sung, and produced, not all tracks are quite as successful. Alt rocker “Point Nemo” is a pretty straight-ahead tune, and “Cheeky Bastard” is a quirky syncopated rock tune that comes across like the lost theme song to a nineties-era animated series. Meanwhile, the country-inflected tune, “The Ballad of Yul Brenner,” is a perfect pastiche of a western rock ‘n’ roll story song. All of these are catchy as heck and wonderfully arranged, but not quite in the same league as the aforementioned songs. What they do demonstrate most of all is the impressive diversity in Moore’s song craft. It’s there in the lyrical word play of “The Ballad of Yul Brenner” and in the counter melodies of “Cheeky Bastards,” which fleetingly strays into psychedelic Beatle-esque moments. It’s there in the song lengths.
The album closes as strong as it starts, with the funky earworm “Buster Jangle.” It says a lot that not only is there a line in the song about listening to a record by singer Vera Lynn referenced in the conversational lyrics, but the song also seamlessly segues into a brief melancholy version of her 1939 classic “We’ll Meet Again.” Just about the perfect ending to the album
Anyone who appreciates alternative rock will enjoy Drifty. The band sounds like they’re having fun and that feeling carries across to the listener. Indeed, Cloud Clipper’s music would be a great soundtrack to an afternoon at a festival or street fair, with Drifty’s eclectic mix of songs and sounds making for a good Sunday morning record. There’s a lot to take in with Drifty, but the Cloud Clippers strong collection of tunes makes this an album listeners will want to replay.