The Voyces: Let Me Die in Southern California

Voyces_LetMeDieInSouthernCaliforniaBrilliant restyling of 1970s California soft-rock and folk-pop

The Voyces are a New York-based group fronted by former Californian Brian Wurschum, and including co-vocalist Jude Kastle. Despite his West-to-East migration, Wurschum’s musical ethos remains deeply rooted in the sounds of California pop, drawing heavily on the vibes of 1970s acts like Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles. Not that the Voyces sound like either of these acts, but they do offer a similar warmth in mesmerizing harmonies, and laidback tempos that are more ocean breeze than traffic jam. The high edge of Wurschum’s lead vocals may remind you of Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend-era singing and, but if you’re memory’s good enough they’ll also suggest singer-songwriter Moon Martin.

After a brief instrumental, the title track opens the album with a letter of longing for the Golden State; trimmed from six minutes to three and sent back in time this could be a huge radio hit in 1976. Wurshum’s sings double-tracked as he escapes into the desert, finds freedom along the highway and immerses himself in the spirituality of coastal waves. The song’s loping rhythm and compressed lead guitar are perfectly complemented by sharp hi-hat strikes and acoustic strums, all played by Wurschum, who manned all of the instruments on the album. The overdubbing gives the album a homemade sound that may remind you of Shoes’ Black Vinyl Shoes and the Posies’ Failure.

Wurschum and Kastle sing of romantic uncertainty, shadowing one another in close harmony on “If I am Not Your Everything, Baby I’m Not Anything,” and accompanied by a heavy bass line, wah-wah rhythm guitar and buzzing Neil Young-styled lead on a remake of Majority Dog’s “Finest Hour.” The album’s love songs, such as “You Can Never Know,” are written and sung as secret professions, filled with earnest emotion that’s cut in half by diffidence. Adolescent angst has grown into adult doubts, and the caffeinated agitation of power-pop has resolved into faithlessness. Wurschum’s repetition of title lyrics and chorus hooks gives these songs a measure of self pity that’s cannily effective in conveying despair.

The album’s sequencing provides several effective transitions, binding the songs into an album. The short acoustic guitar instrumental “La Lonita” provides a restful interlude between the electric guitar that closes “Finest Hour” and the complex vocal harmonies that open “You Can Never Know.” The yearning vocal fade of “You Can Never Know” in turn gives way to the plucked electric guitar and punchy bass and drums of “The Speed of Fear.” These segues draw the ear and mind from one song to the next, much like the crossfades of Pink Floyd’s classic 1970s albums. The closing “It Whispers” is particularly Floyd-like, with a trudging tempo, lengthy guitar solo and a keening vocal that suggests David Gilmour.

The group’s previous releases foreshadowed many of the sounds employed here, but Wursham’s new songs are more intense, the instrumentals rocked up from the folky vibe of 2006’s Love Arcade, and the double-tracked vocals have lost the bubblegum sound evident on “Kissing Like It’s Love” (the best Archies track never actually recorded by the Archies). This is a superbly crafted album, filled with beautiful voices, solid pop-rock playing, thoughtful lyrics and a touch of bedroom production that wraps the album in a shy sweetness. Fans of early ‘70s radio pop (the AM moment between the hippie meltdown and the corporate arena takeover), California production rock, and late-70s power pop will truly love these golden sounds. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

MP3 | Let Me Die in Southern California
MP3 | You Can Never Know
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