Nostalgia-drunk road trips and wanderlust is something Austin Plaine has now trademarked. The Minnesota singer-songwriter has put forth an effort that relates to the hunger of adolescence and the “looking back” of twenty-somethings in his self-titled debut album, which was recently released by Wevolve Music in March of this year. Good songs evoke some type of emotion or feeling that the listener can get lost in—great songs can keep the listener going back to that “first listen feeling” and tie it to a place or experience. Plaine’s songs are the latter.
The first track “Never Come Back Again” immediately takes you somewhere—the feeling of summer and the Midwestern desire to get the hell out of town and go anywhere away from home is clearly present. The song has compelling drive and energy similar to that of a classic American pick-up roaring down America’s lost highways. From that point of take off moments of reflection ensue. Such songs as “Hard Days” and “The Other Side of Town” show age and experience through past trials and tribulations that seem to haunt the still young Plaine. “The Other Side of Town” is especially revealing with its discussion of drug abuse and regret over past decisions made. It only adds to Plaine’s character by giving him further depth. Surprisingly, despite the specificity of the topic in this song, Plaine is able to convey a sort of universal emotion that takes on many forms, as if each song is an old photograph that the listener is going over, in the album and ultimately presents Plaine as a relatable songwriter—this is sadly a rarity in every area and genre of today’s music scene, but should still be celebrated nevertheless.
Moving into the second half of the album, the tone sinks into a nighttime low starting with “Only Human”. Being mostly backed by other instrumentation and voices earlier on, Plaine is stripped down to a sole guitar and a chilling, Elliott Smith-like, backing choir of his own voice, which certainty makes it the most haunting track on the album. Limitations in ability and the realization of mortality are presented to the dashboard as Plaine drives on seemingly alone and unaware as to where he is still heading. The moon is fully out and the stars are shining as “Reckoning Plan” follows and eventually leads into a string of gems that blossom with the rising of the morning sun. “The Cost” is the first of these and is the beginning of a sort of acceptance-like tone that stays prominent throughout the rest of “the drive”. Plaine opens himself up more so in looking at trial and error, action and consequence, and what life takes and gives to us with each step throughout our journey.
The acceptance of this, and other subjects that come up throughout the album, comes to a head with the decision-making “The Hell if I Go Home”. It is an answer to the call made at the beginning of the album, and all the tension in between. The track searches for strength in time of subtle adversity of where to head next, and how that choice is easier made through companionship rather than by oneself. But when that step is made, a legion of triumph horns and building kick drums rise with the final track “Beautiful”—and the track can only be described as such with its celebration of the possibility of starting over. One could go as far as to say that it’s a bold statement saying that life in its entirety is beautiful—its triumphs and tragedies, its high and low moments, the picture as a whole is something to be admired, and ends the album with a feeling that Plaine is driving towards the dawn ready to start anew.
The genius behind this album is its storytelling and unique mix of sound. The fact that the album in itself is a journey that seems so universal is impressive when coming from a talent as young as Plaine. While the lyrics gain most of their honesty from how straightforward they are on their subject matter, Plaine is still playful with metaphor with such lines as “leave an honest woman at a rose parade” and “we were born to be alive not in someone else’s bones” that are subtle but beneficial to his cause in reaching out to his listeners. While the style of the music is mainly folk based, tracks like “Wait” and “Beautiful” play with electronic influences by not putting it front and center, but to add depth to these songs and build around Plaine’s acoustic guitar playing and broken voice. Even a “Nashville sound” makes an appearance on “Houston” and “The Hell if I Go Home” through the use of country harmonies and twang-filled guitar playing.
The end result is Austin Plaine is an album of old photographs. The sound can only be described as such, and it is uniquely Austin Plaine. This is nothing to look past in an age where all “original” and “new” sounds seem to already be taken and gone—and for a twenty-three year old Minnesotan songwriter to come out of nowhere and stake his ground in the music industry in such a defining way, Austin Plaine is someone worth keeping an eye on. This is an album that listeners are starving for, something that relates to both the remorseful thinker and the optimistic traveler that looks towards the future. An album that makes us miss polaroid cameras and the days when we use to spend more time living life rather than watching it happen through out computer screen—an album that evokes an emotional experience.
Listen to Austin Plaine at Sound Cloud.