Mikey Wehling has long been one of St. Louis' smoothest mofos, from his time with the jam/psych progressives in Messy Jiverson through his self-titled, largely instrumental solo work. His so-called "Reverb trilogy" from 2010 and 2011 consisted more of mood music snippets than straight-ahead songs -- drum machine beats and Casiotone keyboards gave grist to Wehling's skilled guitar work. Last year's Nests in Trees introduced both his human bandmates and his lead vocals to the mix, and with the addition of a few more players, the Reverbs moved away from groove-based music and more into singer-songwriter's realm, complete with Wehling's open-hearted lyrics and feathery vocals.
Looking for an Echo is available for digital consumption now and will be released on wax later in the year, but the breezy, yacht rock-indebted vibes make it a suitable summer soundtrack. Wehling points to both Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers (circa the McDonald era, presumably) as touchstones, and that mix of easy-listening rhythms and harmonically rich textures comes through on Looking for an Echo.
Keyboardist LeClare Stevenson carries much of the weight in setting the mood with both rippling Fender Rhodes notes and whirring Hammond organ chords, both of which are used to give a jazz-flecked intro to the pensive funk of the title track. The addition of a flesh-and-blood rhythm section, with Tony LaMacchia on drums and Josip Capan on bass, likewise gives pliability and expansiveness. If you fell hard for the studio-pro sheen on Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, know that this album offers flashes of that same Wrecking Crew-like precision.
Wehling is the band's ostensible leader, but he deploys his guitar with an accompanist's deference on many of these tracks. He's content to offer up wah-wah chords and the occasional soaring lead line, but when Wehling cuts loose he offers a more raw feel to an otherwise reserved album. Closing cut "The Water's Edge" is the band's most conventional rock song on the album, buoyed by a sunny uplift of a progression that makes Wehling's scribbly, overdriven guitar freakout that much more jarring.
These moments of fury and noise act as ballast to an otherwise silken program that channels Gaucho's aural Novocain with none of its deeply entrenched ennui. But you can hardly begrudge the Reverbs the good vibes on an album that chooses positivity and channels it through smartly played, complex compositions.
The Reverbs' Looking For an Echo CD release/listening party will be held this Sunday at the Whiskey Ring. There is no cover, and a free cask of ale will be provided by the Civil Life Brewing Company.
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