Timothy Monger’s “The New Britton Sound” Review

by August Smith

EDIT : Timothy Monger’s “The New Britton Sound” is available for only $5 on his Bandcamp for today, 9/4/11, and tomorrow! Grab it now if you haven’t.

On March 15th, Timothy Monger (frontman of the on-hiatus Great Lakes Myth Society) set up a Kickstarter, asking for fans and supporters to pledge $3,500 to help fund the release of his new album The New Britton Sound. Within a mere 24 hours, the entire damn thing was funded (and then some) in what must be some kind of Kickstarter speed record or something. I certainly have never seen a band’s fund drive open and shut so quickly. Though one can’t really use that information to judge Monger’s caliber as a songwriter, the fact that his fans trust him enough to invest so quickly in a new solo album (his first in seven years!) does say leagues about what kind of person he is and what his fans expect.

That being said, we can all be glad that the project was funded, because The New Britton Sound is a tight collection of chamber folk songs leaning on the brighter and more radiant side of the genre. Recorded in barns and basements throughout Michigan (primarily in Britton, hence the name), the album has the expansive feeling of the Midwestern wilderness filling its lungs- the crickets chirping on “Witches,” for example, or the extensive use of rolling banjo melodies. “Recorded in basements and barns” might make some people think “lo-fi,” though, which couldn’t be farther from the truth; the production is clear and crisp, with layers of strings, horns, electric guitar, and various other timbres. “Guitar Case”’s string arrangements are particularly beautiful, with chorus-like backing vocals spun out over complex orchestration that could make any listener gawk.

The New Britton Sound is full of narrative-based lyrics, brimming with a storied atmosphere and sung by a narrative voice that is both inspiring and- in the sadder pieces- has seen better days. This voice can be heard in closing song “The Classics” with lines like: “Through the village of the dead/ Underage and overfed/ No one can blame you/ For playing the classics all night long.” A hint of nostalgia and sadness is obvious, but the words are surrounded by soft backing vocals and relatively upbeat instrumentation.

The New Britton Sound, all in all, sounds like it could be a Michigan classic itself, which is natural, coming from someone who has been present in the Midwestern music scene for so long. The album can be purchased and streamed here, with more information/ tour dates/ lyrics on the Timothy Monger website. And don’t forget, we did a bridgehouse session with Timothy Monger a while ago; below, watch “Witches” from that sesh. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another seven years for the next one, eh Mr. Monger?