Baltimore singer/songwriter Carter Tanton may have initially been discouraged when his former band Tulsa’s follow-up to 2007’s I Was Submerged (Park The Van) wasn’t released because of legal and label struggles—after all, he had spent two years writing and recording it. But Tanton toured as the guitarist for Boston folk artist Marissa Nadler after the band split, and his experience working on Nadler’s record with her inspired his latest release, Freeclouds (Western Vinyl). And yes, the album title and some tracks on the record reference Bowie’s “Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud,” seemingly continuing where Tulsa left off while also putting a new spin on the kinds of melodic and emotional atmospheres that made Bowie such an icon.
Freeclouds seems to be a culmination of many different ideas and styles all brought together in one album, and this diversity of sound is exactly what makes the album work so well. “Murderous Joy” brings the album to life immediately with a taste of twangy ’60s folk guitars and jangling tambourines as Tanton dreamily croons, “I need just a little time to sing you a line that you won’t soon forget.” And Tanton’s vocals harmonize completely with the layers of folksy instrumentation, helping his loftily delivered melodies prove the lyric’s accuracy. Switching gears to a synthier, more distorted style, “Fake Pretend” features Nadler’s gentle, sweet vocals that contrast well with Tanton’s rich range, skipping ahead about 20 years from the feel of “Murderous Joy” with robotic backing echoes and wavy guitar melodies.
“Horrorscope” brings Tanton in yet another direction—a louder cymbal-smashing direction with faded, echoing vocals and more lofty guitar melodies that soon turn to ass-kicking lo-fi rock guitar riffs and back again. Yet again, “Pasture Sound” changes it up, sounding more melancholic than the rest with an uneasy, tautly plucked guitar riff and a desperate tone to Tanton’s voice as he dejectedly asks, “Are you ready?/Stand witness now to nature.” Tanton’s ability to produce such diversity in his sound speaks to his strong talent as a singer and songwriter.