If you’re a fan of indie singer/songwriters, there’s probably never been a better time to be alive than the present. Other than the roar of the 1960s folk movement, the 2010s have produced more talent in the singer/songwriter genre than any other era in modern times, and this month out of the legendary Austin scene, the one and only Andrew Nolte is causing quite the stir with his brilliant new offering Climbing Uphill. Climbing Uphill is a five-course feast for the senses; in its cornerstone tracks, Nolte explores his sonic depth and experiments with a pop framework that doesn’t so much change his sound as it does bring it into the future with a bang.
Lyrically speaking, “My Avatar,” the song that gets this EP rolling, is probably the rawest recording that has graced an Andrew Nolte record so far, but it doesn’t overstate its theme at all; quite the opposite, actually. There’s no pandering in this track, nor any on Climbing Uphill, and even taking into account the poppy hook that it’s built around, it still stings with an unvarnished emotionality that defies the very nature of commercialized alternative music. He’s being real with the listeners here, and showing no reticence in doing so.
The textures in “Magic,” “I Need You” and the title track are absolutely magnificent. Though the lyrics in each of these three songs are well-written and sung with great passion, they’re not as expressive an element as the melodies themselves are – which, truth be told, is something that I don’t often say about records of this stylistic persuasion. Nolte is using everything at his disposal in imparting his narrative to us in Climbing Uphill, and while he exhausts creative avenues like it’s going out of style in these tracks, he’s careful to stop short of overindulging in any one composition.
This extended play comes to us polished and ready to make its debut on the college radio circuit right out of the box, but more than anything else, it makes me really interested in hearing a live Andrew Nolte performance. He’s got a swaggering presence in Climbing Uphill that was only suggested in his first album, and if it’s something that he can replicate on the stage (or perhaps even expand upon in the right setting), his show could become one of the must-see gigs of the autumn season. I want to find out for myself soon, and I highly doubt that I’m the only one.
Whether you’re familiar with his complete body of work or not, you need to make a point of hearing the new Andrew Nolte EP this September if you dig true blue alternative music. In songs like “Speak My Heart” and the title track, Nolte hammers out a pair of harmony-driven ballads that are as indebted to the vintage pop model as they are the contemporary surrealist movement in folk music, all without ever assimilating himself to one specific identity over another. He’s in an experimental phase of his career, but with results like these, I don’t want it to end anytime soon.
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