Acid Tongue ‘Arboretum’ Album Review

Written By: B.S. Cronin

“The band’s blend of glammy psych-rock and power-pop manages to be both throwback and modern, like 70’s Bowie.”

Taking its name from the 230 acre Seattle park, Arboretum is fresh, assured, and playful, flooding the listener with a cascade of sound: layered vocals, impassioned electric guitars, and catchy choruses (notably “Facts of Life”). The band’s blend of glammy psych-rock and power-pop manages to be both throwback and modern, like 70’s Bowie. This comparison is further emphasized by Acid Tongue’s lead singer, whose vocals call him back.

The band’s core members are Pacific Northwest based singer/songwriter Guy Keltner and drummer Ian Cunningham. Their clout in the underground rock music scene grants them access to a plethora of talent: Brazilian artist Libra, string-arranger Phillip Peterson, Seattle favorites Shaina Shepherd and Smokey Brights… the list goes on. It’s the album’s collaborative nature that gives it an intoxicating sense of joy– these artists are having unabashed fun, and you can hear it in the music.

Arboretum’s first track, “Home,” recalls uptempo Arcade Fire, featuring a chummy refrain amidst a tenor sax: “all my friends are finally back home.” Things get heavier on the third track, “Take Me to Your Leader,” which borrows some fervent rock-n-roll energy from L.A.-based psych-garage group Death Valley Girls. Canadian singer Calvin Love features on one of the more joyful breakup tunes I’ve heard in a while, “All out of Time”– “it feels good to cut you loose/ I’m free to live my truth”. 

Grant Mullen of Naked Giants lends his baritone vocals to the penultimate track “Won’t Walk Back.” It’s the album’s only dip into melancholy, but one of its high points. Acid Tongue channels Sonic Youth on the final track, “The World’s Gonna Fuck You.” The masculine hum of electric guitars lead the charge, with lyrics more spoken than sung: “People love to fuck you/ until the end of time/ let’s try to make it a good one/ if you would be so kind.”

Rousing, multi-instrumental, and exploding with talent, Arboretum finds Acid Tongue fully-fledged. I can’t wait to catch them live on a Seattle stage. In the meantime, tracks from this album are enlivening my winter playlists and providing an exuberant soundtrack for snowboarding.

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