It’s been a while since an album grew on me as much as the debut from Mt. Wilson Repeater did. Mt. Wilson Repeater is the side project of Jim Putnam, who has long led the country-tinged indie-rock band Radar Bros. I initially wanted to dismiss Mt. Wilson Repeater as Putnam’s Postal Service (or, to cite a more recent example, Panda Bear) moment. The album is at times almost subsumed in its own glitchy, buzzing, studio-wizardry weirdness. But Putnam isn’t twiddling around in the studio in some attempt to sound cool. He’s doing it because he loves it. He runs his own studio in his backyard, and his father Bill was a renowned studio man. That love of music comes through on the album’s rich, warm textures.
Putnam is a Southern California boy, and there is plenty of sunshine in these songs, the yellow glow of long, lazy, hazy days. Guitar chords on “Out Country Way” are so gloriously bent as to sound drunk, as Putnam sings of sitting around, most likely with beer in hand, waiting for his girl to come home.
Putnam’s vocals are rare on the album. When they are included, he’s usually only repeating a couple of mantra-like lines, or even more simply, just humming wordless syllables. He combines both approaches on the simple, less studio-tricked-out “Islands in the Sun.” Amid plenty of other buzzing and beeping elsewhere, like the retro keyboard sounds of “Pencils/Pens,” the simple, organic sound of handclaps can really come to stand out, as it does again on “All Night Every Day.”
Many songs on the record sound ready for film soundtrack inclusion. (Hollywood is right up the road from Putnam’s Atwater Village corner of L.A.) The beautiful piano work on “Basketball Song” and “Maid Marion” remind me of an Angeleno multi-instrumentalist who has dabbled in film scores, Mike Andrews. And “Conversation” and “In the Week of a Whale” sound very much like Air’s soundtrack work for The Virgin Suicides.
The album ends with “sun comin’ round the hill” on “Tether in the Haze.” I hope this won’t be the end of Putnam’s Mt. Wilson Repeater guise, though. I hope he’ll find time to revisit the project and make more songs as lush and gorgeous as these.
Mt. Wilson Repeater is the side project of Radar Bros. frontman Jim Putnam. Like Ben Gibbard's excursion into the Postal Service or Panda Bear breaking away from Animal Collective to do his own thing, Mt. Wilson Repeater finds Putnam playing around with studio gadgetry more than he gets to in the country-rock inflected Radar Bros. Putnam did so in his own home studio in the Atwater Village neighborhood of Los Angeles, where he's engineered many a Radar Bros. album. Music engineering is in Putnam's blood; his father, Bill Putnam, did the same thing.
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