DOUGMORE, “Outerboros,” June 2017
RIYL: Jethro Tull, Cricket Tell the Weather, Joni Mitchell
If you had spoken to me during the height of my film studies courses in college, I would have told you that genre is a complicated but necessary thing, and how everything can be packed into little boxes and described with one string of adjectives. Speak to me now, however, and I will tell you about how I listened to DOUGMORE’s debut album Outerboros, released this past June, about four times before I figured out how to talk about it.
I grappled with how to describe the album’s two distinct parts—building and cascading auditory delights, and the intricate world-building lyrics of songwriter/namesake Douglas Jay Goldstein—and how they come together into one neat package. I compared it to Jethro Tull’s mangum opus Thick as a Brick, but that was too prog-rock. Hints of Joni Mitchell came through, but that wasn’t quite prog-rock enough.
Have you ever tried to find something that exists between Jethro Tull and Joni Mitchell? It’s not easy, but maybe that’s where Outerboros lies.
Although Goldstein is known for his banjo prowess with the bluegrass band Cricket Tell the Weather, this album is detached from the foot-stompin’ beats and lightening-speed trills that you would expect from the FreshGrass Award winners. Outerboros, a pun on the Outer Boroughs that influence this New-York-native musician, takes far more of a folk approach, yet it is blended with something out of a fantastical world that’s not quite our own. It crosses through genres such as Psych-Folk, Chamberfolk, and a dash of Cosmic American Music, but never quite stops permanently in either one. I invite everyone to read the lengthy list of talented musicians who contributed to this album, and the wide variety of instruments played.
It only took halfway through the opening track, “Outer Boroughs,” for me to begin to notice the lyrics; perhaps this is the moment where Joni Mitchell blipped onto my radar. Tales of tangible characters, lessons learned, and multi-layered metaphors all weave together to create a fantastical world for the listener to live in for the 40-minute album duration.
While I don’t think that you need to be an English major or an avid fan of literary music to appreciate Outerboros, those who are will certainly find an extra layer of enjoyment in parsing through intricate lyrics and references. The track “Rhodora” blooms into a reference to Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the entire album takes an all-over nod to Dante Alighieri’s finest work.
Outerboros is a delightful journey with stops along multiple genres and lyrical styles, and can turn even the stingiest of music listeners into big fans. You can find the album streaming and for purchase on Dougmore’s bandcamp (above). For more information, as well as upcoming show dates, head to his Facebook.