As much as they say never to judge a book by its cover, a picture is also worth a thousand words. If these sayings were only meant to cover generalities, then the latter would only be a quarter of the way in communicating to us the true value of Pick Me Up’s front cover art alone. As valid as it is to instead weigh an album’s worth wholly off of the music that decorates its halls, covers are often developed to tell a story too, and shouldn’t quite be written off or marginalized as they are per standard. Not only is Shane Palko a singer-songwriter, but a notable socio-environmentalist. Said art covers his journey thus far as an artist and philosopher, representative of over ten thousand miles traveled on the road thus far, of songs about starships, swashbuckling, and trips overseas.
…And if Pick Me Up is worth that much by what’s on the front of the jewel case (perhaps the metaphorical jewel case, in this day and age), then it is certainly of an even further indefinable value as soon as it is given a spin. What is most immediately noteworthy of the work is lush production—as independent an artist as he is, Palko has spared no expense in engineering a sound worthy of his vibrant songwriting and performance. Opener “Traveling / Wandering” chronicles the artist’s nature as a troubadour, all without turning entirely to folk music proper. Rather, the song adopts a cosmic edge, invoking a pulsating, jazzy undercurrent of minor synth to communicate its ebullient nature.
Its the mark of a good songwriter when Palko is able to center a song’s story around the foundation of a literal ‘Circus Dog’ and captivate listeners—let alone, perhaps, make them hungry as the tune indulges itself in resplendent fingerpicking and guitar tones not dissimilar to the likes of what David Crosby might have cooked up in his heyday. Swirling strings and offbeat time signatures keep the song contemporary, much as the latter does throughout this avant folk release. Other highlights include the stirring and spacial ‘Starship’ as Palko lets his mystifying vibrato loose, as well as the breezy and soulful tidings presented in ‘For Juniper’.
Without a doubt, Palko’s released yet another cool, loose collection of indie folk tunes for listeners to get lost in—and for the ninth time in the past ten years, at that! He’s certainly consistent, and it helps, too, that he’s also a bit more than that.
Words by: Jonathan Frahm (@jfrahm_)