Album Of The Week: Recluse Raccoon by Recluse Raccoon

 In Reviews

Out today from Citrus City is a truly special record from Richmond, a painstakingly crafted album that’s as much a love letter to explorative recording as it is to reflective songwriting. The self-titled debut record from Recluse Raccoon is a pillar of Richmond music, a testament to the wealth of talent available in the city, but also concrete evidence of the resourcefulness of a solitary musician.

Off the bat with the first track and lead single, “Put In The Time,” you’re dropped into a world of elegant music, with a gossamer groove and misty vocals providing direction. It’s a world flawlessly encapsulated in the short run-time, but also one that could easily last up to ten minutes as the charm of the groove never wavers, and the vocals never fall short of fascinating. As you approach the end though, its glamour unfolds with a compelling outro that’s slightly unexpected even though the entire song has been subtly building towards it.

Baroque pop filtered through indie rock, the sound is eerily reminiscent, yet distinctly unique. It occupies a space between the ornateness of Fleet Foxes and the pop sensibilities of Foxygen, with enough experimentation and audacity to make it unique and compelling. You might find other reference points here and there, but those points come about merely from happenstance derived from the commitment to finding precise harmony, and most fall by the wayside once the song has shifted, as they all inevitably do in a surprising manner.

Much of Recluse Raccoon feels like an out of body experience — the multi-layered vocals sound ethereal and nebulous, the grooves seem infinitely circular, the instrumentation straddles the line between hypnagogic and surreal, and the odd structures are downright mystifying. But it’s an inviting out of body experience, one you find yourself floating into on the back of some serious diligent songwriting. As you immerse yourself in the sonic environment created here, up can become down and down can become up, as songs with a million moving pieces somehow feel intimate and guarded while simple, unassuming sections revel themselves to be expansive and atmospheric.

“Sleeping For A While” is a perfect case of this compass-shattering ability. A simple song built around a piano and random instrument fills, it inflates throughout its two-and-a-half-minute runtime until it’s become something so grand that a single piano note resonates as loud and strong as any intricate part or detailed harmony on the entire album. Like most of this record, this moment happens remarkably, feeling so organic yet manufactured at the same time. Up becoming down. Down becoming up.

Even in its conventional approach, the record still amazes. Overflowing with irresistible melodies and discerning lyrics, it’s a record that’s appealing even in a casual setting where the ear and mind don’t have the time to pick apart every moving piece, whether apparent or obscured. Case in point, the tender closing track “Why Do You Shut It Out” that’s tantalizing in its aural serenity. It’s the type of song that’s absolutely enjoyable and commendable by itself, but revelatory in the concept of the entire record, closing out an exuberant listen with affection and gentleness.

This album emits such an aura about it, an aura that’s only enhanced when you factor in the backstory and context of the record. The brainchild of Timmy Peele, Recluse Raccoon originally came to my attention with the release of the 2015 Horse EP, a five song release that was crafty and fun. You can draw some comparisons between this lavish album and the band’s 2015 ascetic EP, but the differences between the two are so vast that the two entities feel displaced by decades of time and technological opportunities, not just a few years and a good mix as is the case here. It’s absurd to hear how far Recluse Raccoon has come in just three years’ time, but also shows just how rewarding true diligence can be for the songwriting and recording process.

There are artists who do nothing but exist in a recording space for several years who couldn’t come close to the musical clarity and harmonic distillation found on this record. Recluse Raccoon is truly special in this sense — playing in our ears like a recording obelisk that was somehow created right under our noses, instead of over decades of laborious struggle. Enjoyable in its snapshots and electrifying in its entirety, it’s a record deserving of more than just the simple distinction of being the current “album of the week.”

Recluse Raccoon is out today on Citrus City Records via Bandcamp, and Recluse Raccoon hosts an album release show tonight at Hardywood alongside Ruth Good, Prude Boys, and We Never. For more information on the show, click here.

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