You know, just another week in the life.
If any of you aren’t very interested at this point, the rest of this review probably won’t help you. For those of you who are (like me) totally floored at this point, here’s the skinny: Luke Rathborne has a golden voice, a brilliant songwriting style that draws on history and current trends, a new double EP called “Dog Years E.P./ I Can Be One E.P.,” and my rapt attention.
I don’t know where Rathborne cut his teeth (he’s from the bustling metropolis of Brunswick, Maine), but at 22 years old, he’s out Oasis-ing Oasis and out Ryan Adams-ing Ryan Adams. He plays the sort of pop that teases you; he sets up songs so that you want a chord so bad. And not the “aw, he’s gonna play that chord” cynic’s expectation, either. There are moments that make me think “for the love of all that is good, you had better play that chord oh, snap, you just did that!”
I hear so much music that it’s rare for me to get giddy about things, especially guitar-pop tunes (i.e. the world’s most overdone genre). That doesn’t matter to Rathborne. He takes what we’ve all heard before and makes it what we want to hear again (and again and again). And that’s just the first four-song EP, “Dog Years.”
The second EP is dramatic, enfolding grace on both piano and acoustic guitar. It makes me think of one of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard: Ryan Adams’ “Rock ‘N Roll.” Rathborne has the rare gift of melancholy without navel-gazing, as each of these tunes are heart-crushing, but not invasive. “Solon Town” has the weight and presence of a tune from a songwriter much, much older (Paul Simon, Damien Jurado, etc.). When a hallelujah erupts from his throat at the end (not a cover of the famous tune, but merely his own use of the word), it’s simply revelatory. “I Can Be One” flexes his piano songwriting skill, which he excels at as well.
Okay, Luke Rathborne: Swear off drugs and alcohol right now. Find a woman and keep her. Figure out how much touring you want to do and play 15 dates a year less than that so you’re always hungry and never burned out. Take some time off if you need to. Stay away from Yoko Onos. Collaborate with Sufjan Stevens and other career-minded young visionaries (I know Sufjan’s not young anymore, but he was and still is a visionary). Do not go Ryan Adams on us. Stay clean. Make music. Love your life.
The music-loving world thanks you. —Stephen Carradini
Download track "I Can Be One" here.