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The Olms self titled debut album, a new project from veteran musicians Pete Yorn and J.D. King, is a real musician’s album with abundant influences and nods to other acts and rich in storytelling. Pete Yorn has been a mainstay singer-songwriter since the 2001 release of his debut Musicforthemorninafter. J.D. King is a proper renaissance man – an accomplished musician, a filmmaker, he mixed and produced The Olms and illustrated the album cover. Together, they create The Olms, a celebration and immersion in music for the pure joy of it — they had been friends for years before sitting down to noodle around and experiment in King’s L.A. home studio.
The Olms features an extensive catalog of instruments and sounds, from electric organs to clarinets, Theremin, thumb piano, and chh-ing cymbals. The songs would take a 10 person band at least to recreate on stage and, with minimal exception, was played entirely by King and Yorn. King alone is credited with playing 20 instruments on the record.
The classic acts that the duo admires are nestled in all hooks and crannies of the album. Yorn says, on The Olms website, “It sounds uniquely like us and a hybrid of our influences, from my love of Brit-pop and groups like The Beach Boys and The Kinks, to J.D.’s love for British Invasion bands like The Animals, as well as bluegrass and country music.” Those influences are very strong throughout the album, but they don’t bog it down. The first track, “On The Line,” is all Kinks – King’s spoken vocal is reminiscent of the narration in The Kinks 1968 tune, “Big Sky.” “She Said No” evokes classic Bob Dylan, with thumping, moody guitar and King’s vocal taking the same timbre that Dylan’s sometimes did on tracks like “Lay Lady Lay.” Every track has a grainy echo of an old recording studio, which gives the record a unique atmosphere and ties each track together.
But Yorn is right, while the band nods to old sounds it is not straight mimicry – it is the sixties aesthetic with an Olms’ spin, the original Britpop deconstructed and infused with California sunshine. Indeed, the burnt ochre feel of a late L.A. afternoon can be found in nearly every song from the upbeat head-bobber “Twice As Nice” to “Someone Else’s Girl,” a wistful lament. The mellow ballads “Rise and Shine” and “Another Day Dream” allow Yorn’s voice to shine. He has a great trembling in his voice, like he’s trying to sing while he’s shivering. “A Bottle of Wine, Etc” makes successful and not obnoxious use of the mouth harp, a rare and impressive feat.
In the true singer-songwriter style and in line with the country and bluegrass that inspired the Olms, there are a number of characters and voices that voice tales throughout the album. There are, of course, some songs about love lost and found: “Someone Else’s Girl” and “Bottle of Wine, Etc”. “She Said No” tells the story, in quintessential country style, of a man who goes down to river to kill his wife and then kills himself. Rich in story but never too heavy, deeply layered with instrumentation but never overwrought, the mellow Olms’ debut is a perfectly balanced album that would make the perfect soundtrack to a late afternoon drive.