Album Review: Okey Dokey – Tell All Your Friend

Tell All Your Friend is a joyous, colourful riot. It’s the kind of sequence that twists and turns like a country road, dipping in and out of sunshine patches. Guest musicians Liz Cooper and Rayland Baxter accompany lead singer Aaron Martin and guitarist Jonny Fisher.

Overall, the album feels like a search for identity; a self-examination that’s light-hearted and serious in equal measure. Meaningful contemplation abounds – at times heavily doused in soaring guitars, cavorting basslines and woozy vocals.

‘S’gonna’ initiates the album with swirls and sparkles. It’s a merry-go-round of crashing hi-hats, playfully didactic lyrics and sweeping synths. From its very beginning, this release is launched into psychedelic mode.

Lyrics are a prominent feature in each track. Through his vocal capacity, lead singer Martin blends typical pop sensibilities with complex musings beautifully. These words take centre stage throughout the album, especially over the stuttering bass and swooping guitar of ‘Whose Heart’ (‘what time is it, whose heart did I miss, I wonder’) and the Delicate Steve-esque ‘Doin’ Denim’, (‘dreams…I haven’t had one since 16’).

The band don’t shy away from the occasional instrumental breakdown however, as when ‘All Hat No Cattle’ sweeps away into a more churning, weaving groove as it fades out, or the slide into a quivering keyboard solo on hectic, quasi-country romp ‘Doin’ Denim’. The album feels a lot more rounded for these detours.

Falsetto harmonies blend with Martin’s pleading chorus on ‘Hometown’, which brings to mind a hazy evening, lurking on a porch, filled with hushed hopes and rueful reminiscences. ‘Threw My Love Away’ sees the band piquing their psychedelic pop faculties. It’s a grown-up nursery rhyme of off-kilter drum grooves, shimmering synths and heart-on-the-sleeve vocal pining. The album veers into less indie-pop-heavy terrain in its latter half, with ‘Cut Me Off’ lolloping slightly, stopping and starting somewhat erratically. ‘Wait On Me’ picks up a firmer groove, sparse and effective, developing into a more grandiose affair, bringing to mind the psych-pop of Devendra Banhart or even The Beatles’ ‘Norwegian Wood’.

Plenty of country references place Tell All Your Friend firmly in the south of the USA (Tennessee, check. Horses, check. Cattle, check.), but this is country music that takes its genre’s most distinguished qualities – honesty, idyllism, heartache – and blends them with a wry humour and a playful variability of sound.

Jack Spacey-Helder

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