Sometimes a band's name sums up its sound more artfully than a review ever could. That's certainly the case with Mild High Club, Alexander Brettin's lackadaisical, marginally psychedelic project on Stones Throw Records. Like a half-assed hit on an idyllic summer day, it's hard to tell if the bliss is coming from the drugs or the weather—but it's certainly there.
While Brettin appears to be the driving creative force behind their debut LP, Timeline, it was far from a solo project. In addition to bandmates Andrew Burt, Alyson Sayoko, and Maxwell Nitch, he collaborated with indie heavy-hitters Ariel Pink and Weyes Blood on album closer "The Chat," and from what we can tell he's spent the last year getting pretty cozy with others in the LA scene as well.
In addition to Brettin's immediately-recognizable slacker-psych sound, Timeline sets itself apart from the crowd by knowing exactly when to undermine the listener's expectations. On my first listen, I felt like the early songs blended together a little too much for their own good; if things didn't change soon, I was probably going to get bored and move on to something else.
As if on command, the lead single "Undeniable" entered at track four, replete with enough goofy retro cheesiness to snap me out of my funk. It's an earworm fit for a '70s fern bar (lo and behold, that's exactly where the hilariously surreal video is set), and it brings the energy level up a few notches when it's desperately needed.
That seems to be the album's M.O. It lulls you into a comfortable, placid haze, but as soon as it's on the edge of getting samey, there's a spunky track that kicks things back to exuberant life. "Rollercoaster Baby" is probably the best example of this, and as a result it stands as one of my absolute favorite cuts.
That's not to say that the mellower songs aren't as good, they just require some balance. Alexander Brettin is clearly a talented enough musician to recognize that, and Timeline transcends its psychedelic brethren thanks to its thoughtful pacing and composition. While technically Mild High Club's full-length debut, this is a record that sounds like it was written by old pros—from time to time, it's nice to kick back and know you're in good hands.