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  • Jonathan Widran

WASTELANDER, What Is Left of Me

As he segues from years as a bustling sideman in Americana bar bands and numerous NYC groups – most notably, post-punk art-rock revivalists the Fluids – into a wild, alternately dreamy and explosive sonic roller coaster of a debut as Wastelander, Portland ME singer/songwriter and ridiculously versatile multi-instrumentalist Cooper includes a quirky detail in the official bio for What Is Left of Me.

During his first gig circa age 13, when he heard his voice coming out of a PA system, it felt “like me, but it wasn’t me at the same time.” He brings bit of this surreal out of body-ness to his ethereal, filtered vocals throughout the 12 tracks, whether he’s kickin’ back in a psychedelic indie folk/rock haze trying to figure out the cosmos and “Get It Right,” wondering how he could “Get Older” yet still have the same old problems and inner demons (over a pulsating drive time groove) or getting lost in the obsessive, raging paranoia of the dysfunctional cacophony of “Caduceus.”

That last tune is probably the least engaging or likeable of the set, but it showcases his bona-fides as a rumbling rocker just as capable of being a roaring fire as being the chill dream-popper singing self-punishing words amidst a wash of friendly retro-keyboards on the easy jangling “Broken Leg.” “Room Full of Elephants” and “Natural Light” are two other gems featuring Wastelander’s irresistible laid back sweet vocals singing colorful but troubling (and powerfully poetic and spiritedly rambling) lyrics.

Equally ear-pleasing but lyrically much easier on the senses is “I Just Want To Be Your Friend,” a reflective travel tune about being confused about the road ahead but longing for the companionship and guidance of a friend. Special mention goes to the album’s winsome, seductive and hypnotic and lead single “Be Where,” a song about staying committed to someone despite their ambivalence and our better judgment, featuring the sweet harmony vocals of Erin Rae.

Though credited as co-producer, bassist Paul Defiglia (The Avett Brothers and Langhorne Slim) can be more accurately defined here as co-sound designer, inviting us (via vintage tape equipment at East Nashville’s Daylight Studio and a dynamic ensemble of Nashville session greats) into a soundscape like no other in the indie rock world.


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