Serene Indie Folk
Self Released – July 22, 2017
Few people would say that Scott Whiddon doesn’t keep himself busy. As a follow up to the three EPs released by his band, Palisades, since 2014, Scott is now putting himself out there with a full length album of solo material. In Close Quarters with the Enemy – a title taken from the work of Walt Whitman – Scott’s musical and literary influence (he’s Director of the Writing Center at Transylvania University) are as pronounced as ever. Fans of Palisades will find his songwriting familiar, but have occasion on this album to hear it in a more relaxed setting, now with the back up of J. Tom Hnatow, Robby Cosenza, and Cecilia Miller Wright.
The album opens with the beautiful instrumental track, “The Bird Girl” – one that builds layers of acoustic guitar, strings, and piano to give a hint at the atmosphere surrounding the remainder of the album. “Holidays” is built on a low, droning guitar and sets the scene of a kid struggling to fit in – ‘he’s got some kind of accent // he’s not like the other boys upstate.’ On “Faster than We Hoped,” Scott’s lyrics effortlessly evoke imagery of a pair pushing a car off a cliff, putting the past behind them. The melancholy of the track is supported by a mellow organ and sweet vocal harmonies during the choruses – a warm harmonica provides a nice, sweet color for the bridge.
The title track, “In Close Quarters with the Enemy,” is perhaps the most like Palisades – it carries throughout it a more distorted electric guitar, features a group singing harmonies during an extra-catchy chorus, followed immediately by a more intense break-down bridge. All the while, the track feels right at home at this point the album, providing a sort of high point in it’s arc. Following is “The Breakers,” another instrumental track that picks up exactly where the first instrumental left off – it brings the intensity back down as the album drives towards its end, and is even more lovely than the opening track it compliments. The album’s final track, “What We Knew All Along,” is colored by organ, light drums, and understated bass; the song’s middle section is perhaps the most beautiful of the album, but it never breaks a sweat.
Those who have heard Scott’s work before should enjoy the sounds on In Close Quarters with the Enemy – though, sonically, things are different here than on Palisades recordings, Scott’s songwriting retains a strong sense of itself. At many points throughout the album, I found myself with vivid pictures of the lyrical subjects in my head. These songs have a strong sense of place, and though his memories are not my own, those shared here are nearly universally relatable – it’s easy to feel as though they belong to you.
Tracks I Liked: Scatter and Fade!, Holidays!!, Faster than We Hoped!, In Close Quarters with the Enemy!!, The Breakers!, What We Knew All Along!!!
Ben Southworth – July 9, 2017 – Post Road