Chris Cohen seems to exist in his very own musical space. It’s a space where the Kinks Village Green Preservation Society coalesces with Johnathan Richman’s I, Johnathan and some wistful memory of a summer afternoon long ago. Cohen played with Deerhoof from 2002 to 2006(some say their best years), as well as a bevy of indie music’s royalty, including Eleanor Friedberger, Tortoise, DIIV, Mac Demarco, and Parquet Courts.
But where Chris Cohen shines the most is on his own albums, which are completely performed, recorded, and written by Cohen himself. Starting with 2012s Overgrown Path and then continuing with 2016s As If Apart, Cohen has created a pastoral song cycle that feels part classic 60s pop mixed with an almost jazz-like execution. The production isn’t ever hi-fi, but it’s not lo-fi either. It lies somewhere in this grey area where everything sounds as if you found some lost recording from 1966 and Van Dyke Parks was involved.
Chris Cohen finishes the song cycle started in 2012 with the self-titled Chris Cohen. Cohen continues to mesmerize with his songwriting, musicianship, and ability to pull you into his self-built music world where the past and present mingle beautifully.
“Songs They Play”opens things with a psych pop fervor. Cohen makes new music that feels as if it was pulled from a time capsule that was buried in the school yard 40 years ago. His voice is pleasant and low key. It lulls you into a very specific music space that opens you up for daydreaming. “House Carpenter” is a new sound for Cohen. It’s a 60s droning tracks, with hints of Eastern Indian music. If this were a Beatles record, this would be the Harrison track. This song almost dips into Eternal Tapestry territory. “Heavy Weather Sailing” starts out with feedback but quickly locks into rollicking groove, as if the Monkees and 13th Floor Elevators met up one rainy afternoon.
There’s a lot of new sounds and sonic touches on Chris Cohen that Cohen hasn’t delved into on his own records before. Previously released singles “Edit Out”, “Green Eyes”, and “Sweet William” all have roots in Cohen’s previous melancholy work, but closing track “No Time To Say Goodbye” is the outlier. It shines like some lost 80s pop song, complete with shimmering synths and exquisite saxophone that puts the song in The Squeeze territory. It’s still very much a Chris Cohen song, but possibly a gateway track into where he goes next.
Chris Cohen ends a song cycle he started back with Overgrown Path beautifully here. Chris Cohen sees the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist continuing to write engaging, dreamy, and melancholy-driven songs about love, loss, and things long gone in the key of a rainy day.
8.4 out of 10