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Bolinas releases debut LP Heavy Easy Listening

Living up to the LP's title, the debut album from the Kansas City band Bolinas Heavy Easy Listening delivers an intoxicating mix of shoegaze, emo , and dream pop

Heavy Easy Listening, the new album from Bolinas is a debut long in the making. As the songwriter and primary instrumentalist of the band Chris Thomas can tell you himself, the path to releasing this album was far from a straight line, and the most notable setback is embodied by the flaming vehicle pictured above.

The album cover of Heavy Easy Listening is a real photo of songwriter and Bolinas band leader Chris Thomas’s ‘87 Volkswagen, which broke down and burst into flames as he was attempting to move across the country in pursuit of a career as a musician; burning up all his possessions and gear inside. While this was a catastrophic setback for Chris at the time, the image now becomes a symbol of perseverance; a fitting metaphor for an album that provides an over the shoulder view of songwriter Chris’ migration from the midwest to the US west coast and back over the decade between that photo and today.

Describing that incident, Thomas writes: “I lost all of my worldly possessions in a van fire whilst moving to Seattle in 2012, in the badlands of South Dakota. The album cover is a still of that actual event unfolding. It may be a grainy photo, but I think it’s a perfect metaphor for how I’ve felt about my choices in life sometimes. It really marked the start of this adventure that’s been the decade from 25th to my 35th year on this earth, and the constant struggle to be better. It took me a long time to recover from that emotionally and gear wise."

Luckily, this new Bolinas LP not only lives up to the hype of promising early singles U.L.B. and Tarot Lines; it also feels like a satisfying culmination to an artist's journey nearly a decade in the making. The shoegaze guitar tones hit loud and hard when they need to, but there's always a subtlety and emphasis on melodic songwriting that sets it apart from contemporaries that focus solely on texture. For a while, Thomas felt like his sound was “not quite “emo”, too wordy for shoegaze, too heavy to be pop”, but the new album shows him settling into a sweet spot that should appeal to fans of heavier shoegaze as much as it appeals to fans of lighter indie rock and dream pop. Other non-single highlights from the album include “All Things” - on which Thomas affects a sensual vocal style not unlike Chino Moreno of Deftones - and “Harbinger” which boasts a fantastic bassline from Shaun Penechar that gives the track a swaggering emo-strut.

While Thomas himself admits that writing about being a struggling artist and trying to figure out life and love in your aimless late twenties and early thirties is not exactly breaking new ground in terms of rock songwriting, the approach he takes is very well executed and always feels personal and intentional rather than just going through the motions of typical emo songwriting. As he puts it: “I hope that people can listen to these musical anecdotes of how much of a fuck up I can be, uneasy to be around, and lonely I have been; and realize that you can always come back from it. A monument to accepting & forgiving yourself and others for being human.”

That drive and determination -- which allowed him to continue on even after a setback that would have lead most people to call it quits -- is what sets this record apart on top of its inviting sound and sharp musicianship.

Heavy Easy Listening is available to stream now via Sub Rosa Selects / Rose Garden Records.

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