Their newest album, “The Clay Mechanical,” (artfully recorded and mixed by Evan Daniel Kornblum; released in September 2015) is complex, well thought out and yes, very original. Sure, the band's members have their influences, but any time that an obvious connection to another artist might be made, the group turns around to go in another new direction. Musicians come to mind like Brazilian Girls, Rubblebucket, Thievery Corporation, Stereolab, Lana Del Ray, Feist - but that would be just aimlessly throwing darts and hoping there is a dart board somewhere nearby. The music of Outcalls stands strongly as original and their own.
The album opens with a lovely and brief instrumental introduction before easing into “Looking, She.” The group packs a smooth and snazzy punch with sleek and sultry vocals from Melissa Wimbish and Britt Olsen-Ecker, and a beautifully arranged horn section. Throw in some wonderfully composed violin and solid piano and you’ve got yourself a mini-symphony. Percussion (drums & bass) are restrained, balanced and ever so civilized as in a Burt Bacharach composition. “En Sourdine” (translated: on the quiet, softly, quietly, muted, muffled) lets you know from the clarinet’s first few notes that this is going to be a sexy French jazz jaunt and if vocalists, Melissa Wimbish and Britt Olsen-Ecker, didn’t start singing in French, it would have been shocking. Any diehard Django Reinhardt or “La Vie En Rose” fan will absolutely love this song. It's oh, so very continental and makes you wonder why music can’t always be like this. Either way, we should all be truly thankful for this blissfully complex and beautiful song. It’s absolutely vivid and amazing, a "must hear."
“Lullaby” is a nice follow-up with jazzy trumpets and a very stripped down but strong drum and guitar baseline. A very soft and relaxing tune, it paints a lovely musical picture. There is also a great reference to everyday life in it and how none of it really truly matters: “You start to accept that the price of a Big Mac or plumbing, or the cure for something, is all the same thing.” A delightful little jam at the end leads back to the chorus of “Rest your eyes, I am here to apologize” to close out the song.
The title track “The Clay Mechanical,” like much of their music, is abstract and well composed. One can definitely envision hearing this as a soundtrack in a movie or television show. In “Box of Chocolates” the group channels a little otherworldly Jeff Buckley at times but also, they find a way to turn a seemingly down tempo song into a triumph. Fantastically, the chord progression changes that they pull off are so unexpected and stylistic; it makes you wonder why more musicians can’t spend extra time finding inventive ways to write and perform. Take note: Outcalls put their heart and their soul into their music and it shows. It might sound completely different than the other stuff you’re used to but that’s what makes it so magical.
“Love Story” is another fun and upbeat tune that is delivered almost effortlessly. The bass, violin and drums are completely in sync and the horn section adds a soft accent to the evocative lyrics: “Keep your mouth open, I want to know what you like.” The chorus is out of this world: “I want to be your love story: bloody and glory. I want to die at the end.” Those lyrics will easily get stuck in your head for days, in a notable way.
The album ends with “Gray Train,” a tune that brings some serious energy to close things out. The music and lyrics may knock you off-guard at times but you are so swept away in the song's charm that you just go along with it. “I know they can smell me but no one else can. I wish I was underground, somewhere I won't be found...” A good story must have initially inspired these lyrics. We hope that there will be many more great stories to be told by the Outcalls. In our world of familiar music, they are making unexpected choices, and the outcome is wonderful. The band has been together for quite some time, and we are fortunate that they are now just beginning to play out with select dates. Be sure to look for - and ask for - more near you soon!