Connect with us
April 2024
Vol. 23, No. 7

CD Reviews


by Sandé LollisMarch 2024

From the beginning, there is a retro ’70s feel, both in the instrumentation and in the flow of the vocals. Released in October 2023, there are five songs coming in at a second under 18 minutes, the longest being 4:20. Supporting the name of the EP, the first and last songs are about wanting to be open, despite pain or confusion, and even that is reminiscent of the era of loving for loving’s sake.

Paul Abbott at Zen Mastering mastered it, but various recording sites witnessed the laying down of tracks for the project. Michael Nieland on drums, and Kyre Wilcox on bass, were recorded at Rarified Recording San Diego; Ben Moore on the Hammond B3 recorded remotely; Ted Stern on pedal steel, and Retzer on guitars and vocals, were all recorded in Retzer’s home studio. Even still, there is a noted togetherness in the arrangements of each song.

The first song “Let It In,” is one I wish I’d written; I can relate to the philosophy. It begins with snappy guitar strumming for the intro progression. On the second run-through, the bass and drums come in with double taps on the downbeats until they are fully engaged and, as the vocals begin, the guitar drops out. The arrangement is sparse and open, bass and drums are tastefully active, allowing the vocals to take center stage. Almost imperceptively, the organ starts in understated movement, slowly gaining in volume and complexity with the pre-chorus, “The world is turning, oh oh oh, you get what you give. It gets easier to give love, when you let it in.” Then it all breaks at the chorus. The guitar is back and Retzer is joined by himself on backing vocals. “Put me in the redwoods, let it in. Even when my heart hurts, let it in. Sit and watch the sunset, let it in. Let it in.” His harmony choices are full and balanced and expand the resonance. After another verse, chorus, and bridge, there is a short guitar line, barely a glimpse, but wholly satisfying at 3:07, then he takes it out repeating the chorus over and over, until just “Let it in, let it in, let it in,” like a chant or mantra. That’s something I can hold on to.

“Is It Love?” starts off in multi-track Beatle-esque a cappella harmonies, to be joined by guitar, bass, drums, and organ for a slightly extended intro. When Retzer sings the verse, everyone leaves holes for his voice until it builds quickly to the chorus. “I’m in the middle of trying to find something that I haven’t felt since I could barely open my eyes. Trying to be a little more selfish, I think it could help us.” So, I know what he’s saying here; I get it completely. It’s another retro throwback to all those self-help seminars I went to in my twenties, “Is it love if I dont love me the way I love you?” True, but it’s been a while since I’ve heard anyone say it. “Honestly, I think it could help us.”

Opening with just percussion, the last song “Barriers” is a high energy and joyous adventure, and an instant earworm. Everyone is on board for this one, with the addition of pedal steel fills and accents, and even tambourine. The guitar and pedal steel slide around deliciously between the lyrics, and I catch myself falling right into the chorus. “Don’t want to put any barriers between us and hide away the best of me. I may not know what’s going to happen, but I’m open and willing to see.” That’s the part that plays over and over in my head when I’m drifting off at night. At 1:52 there’s a sweet, plucky guitar solo, while swaths of pedal steel round off the edges. After a final chorus, the raucousness ends with a fade of the organ.

Retzer had a part in writing all songs on the EP. Collaborators included on “Let It In” were Jess Best and Cari Cole; and on “Is It Love?” were Cari Cole and Jay Stollar. Retzer alone wrote “Barriers” in addition to “Fight,” which has the most spins on Spotify; and “You Make Life Better” includes Justin Froeze.

It took a while for these songs to get under my skin, but once there, they stuck. Who knows, they just may have the same effect on you.

Continue Reading