Music Reviews
The One Eighties

The One Eighties

Minefields

Course corrections and fresh beginnings are nothing new to most artists. Things happen. Sometimes they unhappen.

I first heard The One Eighties in a daytime showcase at 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville during Americanafest 2022. Looking back at my notes, I underlined “nice!” and scribbled between bites of catfish things like “they deserve a bigger crowd.” I signed up for the mailing list, as vocalist Autumn Brand disclosed apologetically that they only had one single coming out in October. I applauded their tasteful cover of Kacey Musgraves’ “Slow Burn.” It was one of those best-kept-secret showcases that are why I go to Nashville and seek out less-than-household names.

Fast forward to the debut album Minefields. I’ve been simmering on this one since getting the preview. With no real expectations about the sound and only a short set from 2022 in memory, I accepted that this would be either a fantastic voyage or a thing to tread lightly on.

After their previous label folded and their critically-acclaimed band, New Reveille, dissipated, Daniel Cook and Autumn Brand came back together as a duo under the current name. They experimented, mixed, and recorded in their Cary, NC home studio.

Minefields is mastered by Grammy Award winners Greg Calbi and Steve Fallone (Kacey Musgraves, The National, Father John Misty). It’s rounded out nicely by drummer Fred Eltringham and bassist Mark Hill, among other key guests, on ten beautiful tracks. The record is more complex and ethereal than I was prepared for. You’ll hear synth and space-country pedal steel alongside fiddle and the playful disco feel dished out in “No King,” the single Autumn referred to in our conversation at 3rd and Lindsley. It’s a standout on this album. I kept it on repeat for a while before moving forward.

I get a bit of a Pat Benatar throwback power-pop feel on Autumn’s vocals. This is a compliment. She has all the range to do anything from trad country to ABBA-style pop. She phrases and modulates so well on each track here, and I am sure this will translate to stunning live performances as they hit the road.

Opening with “Two Jet Planes,” the album gives us a taste of the writing that Brand and Cook are masters of. In spite of the claim that they almost always write the music first, it’s hard to imagine these endless files of metaphor and story don’t somehow have an influence on the melody. The title track is a bit of a sequel to “Two Jet Planes.” The drifters fall into a precarious state, just as we get comfortable with their loftiness. This is the “unhappen” part of the story.

I’m partial to the intro on “Fools Gold,” where a bit of country guitar and spare percussion sets the stage for this wise warning to all who fall for glitter and shine, knowing it can’t last.

“Cinnamon,” according to the backstory, came about as an experiment for Daniel to try writing a string arrangement. The intro showcases the result, with an orchestral vibe giving a nice bed for the writing to rise up. The production on this one really held my attention. It’s not exactly upbeat but should showcase well on radio and curated personal playlists featuring strong female vocalists.

“Fever Dream” is driven by a sultry rhythm underneath Brand’s confession of being contradicted. Percussion intensifies right up until the soft drop of the false ending, finishing with a beautiful blunt phrase. Pay attention here, and watch your step.

“Trail” is a song that nearly missed being on the album, but got completed at the last minute. I’m so glad it found a way onto this record to tie things up. The strings on this one are gorgeous, as well as the dystopian nature of the lyrics without surrendering to chaos.

As so much of the writing reflects on Minefields, the adventure lies in discovery, and discovery requires a willingness to take risks, pick up and change direction, keeping the dream in sight as you bend.

The course correction that created Minefields proved fruitful. We have the unpredictable nature of life and the heartfelt persistence of Brand and Cook to thank.

The One Eighties


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