While it’s not uncommon for upstart artists and indie bands to create enigmatic pseudonyms in the name of creating mystery and unique branding possibilities, Southwest Florida’s Puppet for Poets’ debut album Boat of Dreams offers a full on musically compelling, lyrically insightful and heartrending ride without ever letting us know any of the members’ individual names.
Their equally abstract press materials cleverly dance around this mystery by naming a producer friend (Rich Jacques) who encouraged the endeavor and its alternately moody and murky, jangling and rocking vibe - and mentioning a few prominent indie rock muses like Crooked Fingers and The National.
What we can know is that Puppets for Poets blasted on the scene with a flurry of singles, starting in Fall 2022 with the dark, immersive yet beat-peppy reflection “Garden” – a hypnotic expression that includes the line “we were puppets for poets,” but perhaps even more important, the wry, self-acknowledging, “Nobody knows who you are.”
Throughout the 11 track flow, the band and its soulful, deep voiced, highly emotive singer share sense of longing, incompleteness, melancholy, trying to make sense of life and love’s mysteries and attempts to make things right. The ones that tug most on the heartstrings are the bittersweet gems like the dreamy, soft spoken opener “Distance” (which acknowledges that “no one ever seems to have the answers,” the plaintive, lonesome “Miss You” (featuring the key line “why we still hope when there’s none that remains”) and the multi-movement title track, which evolves from thought-provoking piano ballad to an ethereal, brassy and symphonic exploration of why it makes sense to contemplate life’s ups and downs taking on “waves that come on a boat of dreams.”
For indie rock fans who want more than a lot of trippy philosophical voyages to la la land, Puppets for Poets shows its edgier fire on the playfully rolling funk/rock travelogue “California,” the trippy psychedelic Bowie-esque “Electric Theatre” and the witty, blistering distortion of “Interstellar Baby.” That last tune especially is the one you’ll want as an antidote if the band’s questioning laments like “Why Why Why” and “Lost Again” seem too emotionally overwhelming.