By: Hope Ankney
You’re sunbathing on the white sands of some Caribbean island. The light breeze is rolling through your hair as much as the tides of the sea roll onto the beach You feel the warm water envelope your feet, and a sense of pure bliss dissolves your worries- your stresses. The scent of coconut and sweet bananas from your tanning oil is growing stronger as the sun prickles your skin. The longer you sip on the endless sugary-sweet drinks you keep forgetting the names of, the more relaxed your limbs become, ultimately succumbing to the euphoria of the paradise around you.
Maybe, that sounds like a standard description of an exotic vacation to you. But, with Austin Watson, he allows one’s mind to book a ticket to a weekend getaway with his musical vibes, alone. With the release of his sophomore effort, Monumomental, he’s able to craft an environment around his sound that helps relieve the mind of it’s busy schedule yet still causing it to reflect on how fragile time and memory really is.
Not unlike his debut full-length, A Good Place to Sea, a concept record which relies heavily on the theme of Moby-Dick, his newest EP, Monumomental, also has deeper symbolism of its own. When discussing the foundation of the record’s creation, Watson stated, “It’s a mix of stories I’ve collected from others as well as my own and trying to let other people take part in them. I’m trying to build a monument to tell the [record’s] story, if you will.” This can be conveyed clearly with the title of the EP itself. The tracks are heavily based around memory which births this lexicon “Monumomental,” as Watson coins it, to try and capture the significant of fleeting moments that are often passed by.
Kicking off the record is an ear-worm of a guitar riff which leads into the reggae-rock opening number, “Liberated.” The musicality offered here bleeds into the rest of the EP as his lyrics are soft on the ears and heavy in the heart as it thumps to the beats. It’s a carefree and light track that has a quality to it that sways one to sing as loud as they can along with Watson who is shouting “I’m so liberated” all throughout.
As much as the opener was tinged with the soft pop/reggae-rock that resembles Ballywho!, the title song, “Monumomental” continues to carry that torch. Representing the overarching concept of the EP, the record delves deeper into Watson’s lyrical mind, offering several great takeaway lyrics about the fragility of life and the pressure of taking snapshots of memories had. Lyrics like, “So many people with life like museums, I know I’m going nowhere” and “We’re tourists in our own minds, taking vacations- thoughts like prescriptions” directly hit the magnitude of being present for our memories. Cleverly overlaid audio of a crowded chatter, Watson symbolizes being too much in one’s own head, distracted by the billboards of other’s lives, analyzing what’s been said instead of owning what just is.
The latter half of the EP slows compared to it’s upbeat beginning. Knocking on territories of chill-wave, “Dissatisfied” and “I Know” are characterized by a dreamier retro sound. They are very lo-fi in nature yet still keep the listener’s attention, lulling them into a faded headspace. Watson’s warm and deep vocals are sure to make one feel fuzzy, especially on the closing track that proves to be an apologetic ode. His vocals are textured and stirring as his voice wanes, singing “I’m sorry” over and over again.
Even though Austin Watson’s Monumomental has the perfect sound to drop the windows and ride happily through the summer days, his lyrics do not deny the chaos of our minds and what we so often miss putting in our own museum of memories. He continues to dazzle with being a one-man-band, being the sole writer, recorder, and designer himself of all his work. To be able to put out such quality content littered with deeper meaning through every inch of his art is a remarkable feat. Allow yourself the pleasure to experience it as well.