Oklahoma-based Americana singer and songwriter Michael Todd recently released his debut solo album, Crashland. One would think that a debut offering would pull all the stops to capture and keep listeners’ attention. But Todd sticks to what he loves and believes in: tracks built only on his vocals and an acoustic guitar. Despite the use of only these two elements throughout, he manages to create quite a diverse listening experience in the nine songs included on Crashland.
There is also the fact that only having a guitar and vocals to listen to gives listeners a chance to appreciate both more thoroughly. The range his vocals can take and the range of the melodies he plays on his guitar are both quite impressive, as are his playing skills.
Todd’s vocals alternate between a host of styles. In the mid-tempo and mellow “The Cave”, they are hypnotic, drawing listeners into the poetic, metaphorical, and very descriptive story he is sharing. In “See You in the Night”, the vocals are perhaps at their most emotive, holding a myriad of emotions in every note. In the upbeat, toe-tapping, and amusingly titled “French Fried Lady in Combat Boots”, they acquire a cheekiness one would expect. One can easily imagine Todd accompanying his vocals with a flirtatious wink to his audience here and there.
The ballad “Shine” and the folksy “Big Ol’ Sky” feature warm vocals. Interestingly enough, melancholy tinges the fun “Sensible Midsized Sedan”, contrasting with the title, the topic, and the cheerful whistling it contains.
Similarly, Todd uses his guitar to great effect, pulling quite a diverse range of sounds from his instrumental companion. In “See You in The Night” and “Big Ol’ Sky”, he pulls off what sounds like an acoustic version of an alternative rock song; the former also contains a bit of a Latin vibe at times. There is also great beauty in the tunes that feature simpler melodies, such as the ballad “Shine”.
Two of the nine songs particularly stand out. The emotive vocals in the slow and intense “Specter Rises” lean on the darker side of the human experience. The guitar is almost shy in this number, muted by the darkness of the lyrics it accompanies. In sharp contrast is “Hand Fishin’”, an uptempo and fun track that quite simply tells the story of going hand fishing. The vocals are emotive again but in a different way; they reflect the lighter-hearted side of life.
Crashland is basically an album for those seeking to appreciate the finer details of a singer-songwriter’s work through songs that have very few layers to them, but within which there is a lot of richness to explore. Todd’s lyrics are also an invitation to those seeking to use music not just as a source of entertainment, but also as inspiration. Tracks are available for streaming on ReverbNation. More information about Michael Todd is available on his official website.