I’ll Follow You might be the best mixed bag of the year. Whereas 2007’s other great records have done one thing and done it well (Boxer‘s urban ennui, Strawberry Jam‘s electro-pop glee), I’ll Follow You follows many different tangents. Most of the songs fall under the “alt-country” umbrella; but within that subgenre, there are micro-diversions into surf rock, chamber pop, and other sounds.
Much of this eclecticism stems from Oakley Hall’s wide-ranging membership. There’s Pat Sullivan, formerly of Oneida, who, while not doing anything nearly as loud here as in his former band, still gets things rocking on “No Dreams.” There’s fiddler Claudia Mogel, featured nicely on songs including “Best of Luck.” And there’s co-vocalist Rachel Cox, who can harmonize beautifully with Sullivan as well as hold her own on gentler tunes like “Angela” and “All The Way Down,” on which she recalls Lucinda Williams.
Sullivan too is a solid songwriter. On the subtle yet effective opener, “Marine Life,” he drops what might be the non-rap rhyme of the year, pairing “rigor mortis” with “Anacortes.” On “Free Radical’s Lament,” a song about lost love (a recurrent theme on the album), Sullivan declares, “What starts like a supernova/ Ends up like a drizzling rain.”
If there’s a dig on I’ll Follow You, it’s that Oakley Hall seems to have consciously tried to make certain songs sound certain ways, seemingly saying things like, “This one’s going to be our country-punk song.” Cox’s two baroque-pop numbers, “First Frost” and “Take My Hands We’re Free,” fall into this trap, and prove to be the album’s low points. But any album with a high like the sonic whirling dervish “Rue the Blues” can’t really be dragged too low anyway.