Moody, Neil Young-style, widescreen Americana/indie folk from Ontario – unoriginal, but occasionally intriguing.
‘Lead Foot’, the darkly powerful, foreboding and crunching rock song that ushers in singer-songwriter Oliver James Brooks’ third studio album, ‘Storm Chasing’, has more than a hint of vintage Neil Young about it, so it won’t surprise you when you find out that, like one of his key influences, the man behind it also hails from Ontario, Canada.
Brooks cites Dylan and Elliott Smith as big inspirations too. Second song, ‘Two Best Friends’, is much more stripped-down than what comes before – hushed, introspective indie-folk: “Here I am sitting here on the couch again, surrounded by my two best friends.”
Just to clarify, those two best friends aren’t cigarettes and booze – they’re his partner, Kiyomi, and their cat, Baby. Brooks has been sober for over five years – before that he was “chasing storms”, which is where the title of the record comes from.
Written over the course of the past five years, some of the tracks were penned while he was living in Brooklyn, New York. The album was recorded between 2020 and 2021, at Gavin Gardiner’s All Day Coconut studio in Toronto.
Bar a few overdubs, all of the music was captured on an old Tascam 388 8-track tape machine, which gives the record a raw and ‘up close’ feel – it’s edgy, but also, at times, warm and fuzzy. Some of Brooks’ vocals are almost whispered, which only adds to the intimacy. ‘Lead Foot’ was recorded the way he’d always hoped to, with a full band live off the floor to tape.
Evoking a similar mood, the brooding title track is Young at heart, as is ‘Forever Together’, while the haunting ballad and standout moment, ‘See To It’, has spidery acoustic guitar, electric twangs and atmospheric Wurlitzer, and sounds like something destined for the soundtrack of a neo-noir-meets-Spaghetti-Western film. ‘In A Bad Kinda Way’ is similarly cinematic, but with more of a country-rock edge, thanks to its mournful slide guitar and rippling piano.
‘Storm Chasing’ has its moments but isn’t original and the last few songs aren’t particularly memorable, which is a shame. It starts like a hurricane but ends up blowing itself out.