I first came across The Accidentals about five years ago, when they were playing a hometown show in Traverse City.
This was in the early days of the band, and The Accidentals were just a duo consisting of multi-instrumentalists Savannah Buist and Katie Larson. I remember thinking how lucky I was to see them when they were still finding their feet as a band and as performers because I knew they were going to become something even greater. Sure enough, The Accidentals have quickly become a force to be reckoned with. It’s been four years since their last full-length album Bittersweet, and in that time, the band has gained a new member (drummer and equally as talented multi-instrumentalist Michael Dause), toured all over the country and to top it off, they were signed by a major label, Sony Masterworks. Needless to say, my heart was swelling with hometown pride to see this local band get this national recognition.
When I first listened to their new album, Odyssey, this pride grew even more. The growth in their songwriting since their last album is seriously impressive. In the life experiences they’ve gained from being on the road, Buist and Larson have become even more prolific in their songwriting, showing a maturity beyond their years. The title track starts off the album. It’s an acoustic metaphorical journey that we can all relate to, as it tells of facing and overcoming obstacles in every odyssey. This is Buist’s songwriting at its best, with lines such as “Our new deceit’s an old perfume, it masks nostalgic times; forgotten crimes die in the fumes.” The next song, “Memorial Day”, sung and penned by Larson, slows it down a bit. Tinged with nostalgia, the memory of the anticipation of summer has never sounded so good.
The band kicks it up a notch with “KW”, a romping funky guitar-filled tribute to singer/songwriter and guitarist Keller Williams (who also guest features on the track). My favorite of the album has to be the track “Earthbound”, another testament to the band’s progress over the past couple of years. It begins with strong guitar and an almost eerie violin line emanating out of the silence, which crescendos into a soaring rock chorus. What’s great about this track and this album in general is that the band haven’t lost any of their unique character in signing to a major label. They still live up to their genre-bending reputation and their lyrics are still that perfect mashup of clever, sentimental and a little bit nerdy, by including various literary references in their writing. An example is the bluesy “The Sound a Watch Makes When Enveloped in Cotton”, taking from an Edgar Allan Poe short story. Here Larson’s talents really shine as she lays down some hot licks on the electric guitar and an absolutely stunning, Edie Brickell-ish vocal. And let’s not forget Michael Dause in all of this. His drumming is rock steady and adds a whole new dimension to the Accidentals sound with his versatility.
Odyssey ends on a poignant note with the instrumental “Ballard Tendered Gun”, which features virtuoso guitarist Kaki King. This track also showcases Buist and Larson’s talents on the violin and cello respectively, a nod to their “orch dork” days in high school orchestra (where the two first met), perhaps? And what better way to end the album, than with a shout out to the band’s beginnings, bringing their odyssey full circle.
Favorite Tracks: “Odyssey”, “Earthbound”, “The Sound a Watch Makes When Enveloped in Cotton”, “Chekov’s Gun”, “Ballad Tendered Gun”