CD review: Communist Daughter’s “Soundtrack to the End”

The buzzy folk rockers impress on their debut LP

PHOTO COURTESY OF GRAIN BELT RECORDS

PHOTO COURTESY OF GRAIN BELT RECORDS

Jay Boller

Communist Daughter ALBUM: âÄúSoundtrack to the EndâÄù LABEL: Grain Belt Records The Current is spinning Communist DaughterâÄôs âÄúNot the KidâÄù on high rotation, and with just cause. The song chugs along with Johnny Cash-derived strings and frontman Johnny SolomonâÄôs delicate Andrew Bird impression. ItâÄôs equipped with earnest kiddy-nostalgia lyrics that smack of a non-ironic MGMT, not to mention a stellar, digging hook. âÄúSoundtrack to the End,âÄù the local seven-pieceâÄôs debut LP, doesnâÄôt just deliver with the lead single. ItâÄôs a tight, hooky and maturely executed indie pop record that will undoubtedly speckle year-end âÄúBest OfâÄù lists. Communist Daughter (yes, theyâÄôre named after the Neutral Milk Hotel song) was cultivated out of tumultuous soil. Johnny Solomon, 31, retreated from Minneapolis to Prescott, Wis., in the wake of a band breakup, addiction and a failing marriage. The burly, tattooed singer bought a restaurant in Prescott, The Boxcar, and has since won over local music-heads with his Communist Daughter output. âÄúSoundtrack to the EndâÄù opens with the up-tempo stomper âÄúThe Lady Is an Arsonist,âÄù where Solomon flexes his rangy, accessible vocals over driving acoustics. The songâÄôs an example of his practiced, sharp songwriting outside of the inexplicably stupid closing line of âÄúLiar/Liar/Guess whose pants just caught fire?âÄù From there, the record visits standout track âÄúNot the KidâÄù and veers into âÄúOceans.âÄù With a spiky little riff that blooms into a full-on rock guitar onslaught, âÄúOceansâÄù is a departure from CDâÄôs more organic leanings. But it works, as SolomonâÄôs yearning voice sounds just as at home amid the electrics. Midway through the LP comes its title track, a choice cut. With a forceful yet moving lo-end sound, Solomon waxes romantic while bandmate Molly MooreâÄôs tender vocals weave in and out, culminating in a wash of synths, acoustic swipes and âÄúoh-oh-ohs.âÄù And whatâÄôs a Neutral Milk Hotel-inspired band name without some NMH mimicry? It comes in the form of âÄúFortunate SonâÄù (apologies to CCR), and itâÄôs a convincing, punchy rocker. Solomon even tips his hat to Jeff MangumâÄôs opus âÄúIn the Aeroplane Over the SeaâÄù with the opening line âÄúDo you remember the aeroplane?âÄù âÄúSoundtrack to the EndâÄù closes out with âÄúMinnesota Girls.âÄù The track is ripe with Uptown hooker allusions, South Town referencing (territory Craig Finn has previously covered) and a chorus of âÄúGet down/you Minnesota Girls/I donâÄôt owe you nothing/but blue skies.âÄù ItâÄôs a laid-back closer with floating synths, lazy guitars and a chilled-out vibe that sees the record saunter to a close. Armed with an unfortunate war chest of pain to artistically draw on and an impressive skill set (songwriting/vocal chops), this was SolomonâÄôs record to screw up, and he did anything but. Folk rock can be massively boring, but âÄúSoundtrack to the EndâÄù is armed with enough adept lyricism, effortless catchiness and subtle twists to render it an LP primed for national attention. 4 out of 5 stars