By A. L. Boulden
Scott Yoder’s latest solo album, Looking Back in Blue, is filled with introspective musings typical of his writing. This album is an extension of his demo, Sisters Under the Mink, which Yoder has been promoting through touring on a Grey Hound Bus while playing with acts such as Jessica Pratt, The Abigails and Jimmy Whispers. “Songs to Strangers,” “Alien” and “Who Am I” made the cut for the full album and showcase Yoder’s current state of mind.
Before embarking on this solo project, Yoder played with an eclectic trio called, The Pharmacy. The group was gaining popularity and underground success with its mix of grunge, punk and indie tunes, but Yoder was skeptical of the band’s stability. He began lying to himself about the sustainability of the group and recalls a breakup “was subtle, it was sad and it was unavoidable.” The Pharmacy performed their last show at a block party and Yoder remembers the decision of playing the final gig as “one of the most emotionally satisfying and honest shows I’ve ever played!” Afterwards, Yoder needed to find a creative outlet for his writing and admits, “In arranging this record, I consciously sought out musicians I played with and felt confident in their innate abilities. No ego-checks, no passive aggressive vibes, limited bullshit (don’t trust anyone who says they’re completely bullshit-free). These are the songs I came up with. I love singing them. They aren’t happy songs, but they make sense to me and they are my conscious attempt to tell the truth to myself.” Released on Annibale Records, Looking Back in Blue primarily contains folk and indie influences.
Yoder is known for his witty and comical lyrics so this album is a departure from this style with skeptical lyrics like, “There’s no turning back from these feelings that we lack” and “Just before the dawn I was laying in her arms, counting all the minutes I had wasted there.” Wielding a 12 string acoustic guitar, Yoder still evokes that garage band sound through his newest recordings but has refined them to fit into a folk and indie genre.
The recordings are raw in that Yoder decided to leave coughs and gritty vocal takes in the mix. These do add to the feel of the album but I think a more quality product could have been produced if Yoder took more care with some of the vocal tracks. Many of the tunes even have a demo feel to them but deeper into the album the songs transform into something beautiful. “Songs to Strangers” opens with a delicate piano line and asks questions that many musicians ask. “Do you know the songs we sing, were you clapping just to be polite?” This song highlights Yoder’s talent and ability to take a typical situation and write enough lyrics to pump out a song. He sings, “Been out on the road for too long, folks we know back home never realized how far we’ve gone. Singing songs to strangers all along.” Lyrically impressive songs and melodies drive this album.
The band really finds themselves in track 8, titled “Children’s Games.” The song opens with a nice acoustic arrangement then opens up in an eerie plethora of backwards guitars and vocal harmonies. The song ends with, “Feel the water flow, hold it then let go, don’t you know the truth? No one thinks of you. Looking back in blue all that’s left to do is play children’s games.” Children’s Games shows the creativity and quality of the artists who recorded the album.
Looking Back in Blue has great lyrical content and acoustic guitar work and shows promise for Scott Yoder’s solo career.