Usually, when a band bills themselves as a mixture of genres, the tighter those individual sonic influences can be interwoven, the better their swipe at innovation comes across. More typically than not, this means a closer-knit collective of, say, two or three genres as opposed to nearly two full handfuls of them. Folk, for instance, has evolved into a myriad of subgenres that mesh other musical movements into a cohesive whole. These span from folk-rock, to folk-pop, and beyond, and they all have their share of successful projects tucked under their wingspans.
Entering Strange Culprits’ self-titled debut album, then, may have some initially wary. It’s being billed as a mix of American rock’n’roll, retro soul, honky-tonk, pop, punk, baroque, and folk influences. So, we’re really jumping into that “nearly two handfuls” territory with this one. Yet, subsidize that positive myriad of various elements and you have yourself something that might be more simply described as a new take on the ever-expanding Americana genre. Less intent to overwhelm with its influences than it is to subtly pervade the senses with a well-balanced collection of songs, Strange Culprits is actually quite the promising debut for the Bay Area collective.
There’s plenty different at the forefront of Strange Culprits’ sound, too, that draws from a Cohen-esque mindset more than anything. From frontman Jason Buckingham’s layered baritone to the overall darkly themes that emanate from this set of tunes, the band’s debut LP has more than enough to set it apart from the burgeoning Americana market. It shares more lyrically with the sort of dark-toned neofolk we’ve come to know and love from the likes of Gill Landry and Lou Reed.
Musically, there’s a lot to enjoy here, and it meshes together far more effortlessly than you’d imagine from the forefront. Its broad spectrum of influences are interwoven naturally, less-so with the intent to innovate for the sake of innovation than to genuinely accentuate the music. ‘Rootless’, in particular, is a song that fully showcases Buckingham’s impressive vocal range, vibrantly accentuating an intense, gritty folk sound with yodels and full-bodied croons alike. Albeit, there’s something for everyone on this rising band’s LP, and not in the contrived sense that every bar band that specializes in rock, folk, country, R&B, jazz, and reggae does, either.