It’s amazing how often production value is overlooked when considering an artist’s musical output. In the case of Portland’s Lost Lander and their debut LP DRRT it’s impossible not to address it—the production is as palpable as the vocals. It literally becomes another instrument.
The credit goes to Brent Knopf, former member of Portland band Menomena, whose records were notably built from bits and scraps of organic and electronic noise. In the end they sounded both schizophrenic and enormous. Lost Lander do right by enlisting Knopf, who turns songwriter Matt Sheehy’s quirky folk-pop songs into mini-epics.
In fact, as is arguably the case with Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, without the bells and whistles DRRT might be left with songs that are nothing if, well, ordinary. The production saves opener “Cold Feet” from falling completely flat. “Belly of the Bird / Valentina”—a terrific song in its own right—benefits from sparkling bursts of synth, which seamlessly comingle with lush piano and well-placed violin stabs. And “The Sailor” loads more string arrangements on top of echoed choruses, put over the top (in a good way) with handclaps.
To Sheehy’s credit, he does carve out some compelling dynamics. The strummy “Gossamer” hits the minute-and-a-half mark with a breathtaking free-fall, while “Dead Moon” remains relatively quiet until the haunting female chorus takes over briefly about midway through. The moments are subtle, but they’re incredibly effective.
DRRT’s best song is closer “Your Name is a Fire,” which whiffs of U2 (even the title) at arguably their creative peak of Achtung Baby. It’s a slow build punctuated by fuzz bass, handclaps, synths and a wall of ghostly harmonies. When listened to in headphones, even those boring organic instruments rumble. Don’t let Lost Lander fool you. For such a gorgeous and immaculate collection of songs, DRRT will still assault your senses.