Life is bittersweet at best in the scenes summoned by Ethan Fogus on The Witness Marks’ self-titled debut album. Every triumph is tainted. Every success is suspect. The characters are frail and their fortunes are fleeting. Their stories force us to ponder whether it is destiny or circumstance that has done them in. Each song is a snapshot of a moment or a sonnet spun from memories.
The stories are straightforward and they’re told in a way that manages to preserve the tension between the teller and the tale. The band blends Southern rock with Topanga Canyon pop to produce soundscapes that bring the tales to life. The uncertainties and regrets of so many “what ifs” and “should haves” come alive against that backdrop. They shuffle forth on unsteady legs and present themselves for inspection. Fogus’ voice ranges from ponderous to pained, adding additional layers to the drama and accentuating the finer points.
A few of the tracks have a reach that exceeds their grasp but the album rolls smoothly from beginning to end. It offers the listener a montage of melancholy moments. Here’s to what might have been. Here’s to the ones that got away.