We can all relate to the big changes the world has delivered to us in the past few years. Now, maybe more than ever, we’ve had the ability to step back and observe our paths.
Looking at the artwork for Andy Ulseth‘s album, which was released on June 24th, there’s a clever tie-in to that evolution and shift with the way his name is snaked around the power lines.
It’s that small detail that symbolizes the constant pace of life and our grasping to adjust, a line that doesn’t stop when routine is disrupted. The album was technically finished in March of 2020, but derailed by the times we abundantly try to forget. This giant change, along with becoming a new father, give an even greater authenticity to the new songs.
How We’ve Changed is a vibrant collection of songs that simmer in Ulseth’s influences. The wordsmith channels the clean honesty of Ben Gibbard while also hearkening the wit of Conor Oberst. His voice is reminiscent of Paul Simon, with a falsetto that glosses the high end. The album is expertly produced instrumentally, with each part, sound, and moment arranged for maximum effect.
“Highways That Vibrate” starts off the album with Ulseth’s psychedelic vision of wondering what frequencies America’s great highways vibrate at. Lyrics like “past the sound of squeaking wheels and rolling trash and orange peels/are the tones that only lonely travelers know” lead into a warm chorus and cruise control release.
The prime lyrical content continues at a high frequency, providing an astute recipe of prose. For those that dive deeper into the meaning of a song, there is plenty of soil to dig into.
“All At Once” is an acoustic lullaby that takes on themes of self-discovery of growing up in a small town. The click-clack of the acoustic guitar draws out the melody and immediately catches your ear. The theme continues in “Someone Longing,” which mentions a clothes line and ties it in with the feeling of missing someone.
The sweetness of “Calliope” and “Velveteen” resonate, as Ulseth pines about his lovely wife and pet. The soft harmonies and glow of love travel through on these. It’s a sonic smile.
“Arbor Day” hits deeper, as it looks at the irony of wooden figurines being sold at a celebration of “tree” day. The piano-driven song cleverly supports the importance of life while challenging what we see before us.
We’ve all had to adjust over the past two years. This album lingers in that feeling with songs like “All At Once,” and especially the title track.
How We’ve Changed is a pop-folk addition to 2022 that deserves to be carved into vinyl. Its stories are grooves that literally are cut into a circle of life, profound and circular. As the album artwork suggests, these are songs that will entwine around your power lines, keeping you company through all changes in life.
Tickets still available for the release show at Aster Cafe on June 24th with the admirable Emily Haavik.