By Derek Cooper
The immediate sense of friendly, crooning warmth from Motopony’s new Welcome You is overwhelmingly infectious. A follow up to 2011’s self-titled album and with three new members, this eleven track orgy of guitar, synth, drums, and bass is an exceptionally groovy mix of genre-blending just in time for summer. The last four years has seen the band cultivating a tight sound, a careful curation of treble-heavy vocals, warm synths, and washy guitars contributing to a tight-groove-structure that still manages to feel spontaneous and open. Make no mistake: this is just the music for that epic road trip you know you need. Just turn this on and take off. Go ahead. Your boss will understand. Especially if you return with a beer and this album for them.
Recorded in Seattle’s Break Creek Studio by Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Heartless Bastards, Trail of Dead) and mixed by Guy Massey (Spirtualized, Manic Street Preachers, Ed Sheeran), Welcome You was recorded live, straight to tape which undoubtedly contributes to its inviting warmth. This result is a feeling that’s almost lo-fi without being overly simplistic, a series of songs with exciting, blood pumping tunes that would feel undeniably old school in it’s tone if the songwriting weren’t so modern.
Welcome You opens up with the titular song. A drum and guitar fever builds until breaking to simple quarter note guitar strumming and Daniel Blue’s vocals greeting the listener as if an old friend. “Welcome you, a person we have waited for before we knew we needed you to come and be among the ones who come to welcome you.” Feel-good, borderline nostalgic harmonies kick in while the drums pulse in a way that’s letting the listener in on the upcoming excitement.
Ending with a synth and kicking straight into the band’s single "Daylights Gone," the band opens up even wider than the opening track. Forrest Mauvais’ tight drum groove pulls us in to a glimmering interplay between the contagious guitar riffs of Mike Notter (guitar), Nate Daley (guitar), and Terry Mattson (bass). This single directs one to “Hey, move child, dance, shine wild” and faintly reminds of Jack Steadman of Bombay Bicycle Club. As an Arizonan, the refrain “Now that daylight’s gone you can be yourself again // Now that night has come you can rise and shine” sounded like something out of my autobiography. I declare this song a shimmering summer anthem. The optimism and centered joy throughout this song is a wonderful hint of what the album holds in store, and ends on Andrew Butler’s dreamy synth echo.
"1971" slows things down from the previous three tracks, creating a narcotic blanket of sounds (complete with violin) that brings to mind Potrugal. The Man’s earlier material (namely tracks "Shade", one of my all-time favorite songs, "Colors", as well as “1989", and not just because they’re both years). Expressing a fondness for an imagined past, lost in a hypothetical nostalgia, somewhere other than the here and now (oh wait, just kidding); it is a familiar feeling and an environment where Mauvais’ fills and bass foot fill space among the wash of retro era guitar tone and soaring vocal melodies proclaiming “Life in 1971 // I wanna be there // I wanna have fun.” "Gypsy Woman" carries this feeling but amped up with funky synth and more aggressively rhythmic vocals, which is a particular contrast with the previous song and shows the functional depth of each member’s contribution to the writing. It is here, about halfway into the album, where I was able to fully comprehend the depth of genre play of which Motopony is capable while still retaining their own identity and sound. If this album is a summer road trip, "Gypsy Woman" is when you are halfway there but it’s midnight and still ninety degrees so you pull into the closest local blues bar for a few. “You’ve got to trust yourself // You’ve got to love” beckons out into the air as a riffy instrumental break takes over underneath leading to echoey guitar work.
"Livin’ in the Fire"’s groovy drums and key work following the vocals pulls us out of the narcotic and vintage haze into an upbeat-yet-suspenseful modern medley of effects and sounds. Here the band sounds purposeful, poised as if ready to pounce at a moments notice. Delayed vocal effects tie the previous three songs in the same direction as the burning fire alive in this tune, culminating in a high pitched wail and a cymbal wash. "Molly" shines in its use of interesting key textures and an extremely catchy melody. "Easy Come Easy Go" is a stand out track, and in the context of this album the most unique, dropping any previous pretense and slowing all down to a background drum beat and ambient textures, with haunting vocals panning and delayed guitars filling all room available. My favorite song on this album; not the most catchy song, but the one you will show your musician friends when you’re looking for the breakaway song to impress them. The album closes with "Where It Goes," a more mature and introspective Eastern-styled piece, saving instrumentation not heard elsewhere on the album, which gives it a sense of finality and closure. If you’re the type, then I guess you would do the drugs to this song. Yes, even though there’s a song named "Molly." No, that is nothing against my ex. You’re the one that brought her up.
As it stands, while I found myself in a mental Rolodex of veritable genres and styles, Welcome You makes me ultimately happy with the core identity this band manages to craft and maintain. With three new members and some of the most interesting material to date, this album has more than enough interesting and catchy material to stay in rotation for a long time. With something for everyone, from your formerly psych-rock dad to the pretentious hipster bartender you know, to that strange militant guy at your barber, you should definitely welcome Welcome You into your ears.