May 1, 2017
Released On February 23, 2010
Released By Timber Carnival
I listened to Good Luck Studio several times in 2010. It struck me in the exact ways an album has to hit me in order for me to fall immediately in love with it. In fact, let’s take a journey in the wayback machine to March 3, 2010, when I posted the following:
“There are some albums that are just absolutely fantastic from beginning to end. No songs that I would even dream of skipping over. I recently came across an album from a band that I’d never heard anything from: Friday Mile. The description that I read about them compared them to ‘The Magic Numbers, Rilo Kiley, and even Fleetwood Mac’ and I was interested.”
Then I talk a little in depth about the first track, “Handle It,” as an example of one of those unskippable tracks. And I closed (before the obligatory website information and mp3 download link (2010 was a very different time) with this:
“Each song is as good as the first track, but they all have different shades and flavors. Check this out.”
A number of things occur to me. First, I don’t think I’d realized how much OYR has improved my ability to talk about what I like about an album/song. Second, I recognize that, at my gushiest, I still basically write like this, and maybe that’s ok.
Listening to this album this week, for the first time in years (not quite 7, but damn close), it falls a little differently on my ears. For one thing, it’s way more mellow than I recall. I think the Fleetwood Mac comparison made me conflate this album with another album that I loved from around the same time, U.S. Royalty’s Mirrors album, which was much louder on the guitars. Which brings me to my next point: This album has way more piano than I remembered.
Shortly after I wrote my review, Friday Mile broke up. I won’t swear that it was in direct reaction to my review, but you never know. It’s always hard when a band you’ve just gotten into breaks up. It feels like some great relationship has been snatched from you and this felt exactly like that. But here’s the good news: According to their Facebook page, they are reuniting and making new music in 2017!
So, enjoy the album and the words that the talented writers have assembled below while prepare for one of the greatest occurrences in music, namely, the opposite of my experience: When a band that has previously been Off Your Radar, appears on your radar, you love them, and then find out that they’re ending a seven year hiatus the very year you’ve fallen in love with them! Lucky you!
Indie charm, ambitious arrangements, and wistful messages all wrapped into one elegant & engaging record.
I am tired of self-conscious music, where bands are so unsure of what they want to sound like that they just put a bunch of shit in a blender to see what happens. Or the songs compete with the production—for example, a band writes power pop songs, but they’re muddled underneath noise and guitars. These bands always get so much attention, which totally befuddles me. Friday Mile is decidedly not like that at all. Good Luck Studio feels like a local music project, which I don’t mean negatively, just that it was made without outside interference. The band is able to be who they are, which is actually hard to describe — maybe country and folk-influenced indie rock? Because of that, the record is not overproduced at all; in fact, it sounds natural, clean, and timeless, though the songwriting reminds me of some of my favorites from the mid-oughts and later (Rogue Wave in particular). It’s upbeat, but never corny, and male-female harmonies (swoon!) are perfectly placed within the music—the guitars and keyboard are still loud and carry a lot of the melody as well. “Not Frozen” features a slide guitar part that gives a ’70s easy listening vibe to the song, which is both unexpected and completely welcome. That kind of attention to detail makes the record very special. While the band broke up in 2010, they’re writing new material and playing shows again. Their Facebook page makes them look like normal folks who just happen to be awesome at music. If they were from Richmond, they would be my favorite local band and I would see them play regularly and curse everyone else for not realizing how awesome they are. Good Luck Studio is less than 34 minutes, so you have no excuse not to load it up on Spotify and wonder about all the other good music you’re missing out on.
Good Luck Studio is why I choose to remain single. Well, not because of the actual album by Friday Mile, but the subject matter itself. I just can’t allow the constant drama of a passionate relationship to divert my attention from the things in life that I actually care about. I can’t stand to see someone that I find one day enchanting becoming the bane of my existence. I dread the snarky comments, like “you looked your best when nobody was looking” on “Autograph.” I run from the pettiness of relationships gone bad, perfectly outlined by “FYI” — really? You’re going to rub it in my face that nobody mentioned my name at a party that I didn’t what to attend in the first place? I detest the perpetual push-pull that “Adorable Machine” so eloquently describes. Good Luck Studio brought out a lot of negative feelings for me; fears even. And you know what? That’s the biggest possible compliment to the song writers, who have done a tremendous job here of compartmentalizing the minutia of an unhappy couple. The fact that I recoil so violently from some of the stories told here means that the band is painting the pictures with vivid detail. So kudos to Friday Mile for doing their jobs, and making me look at a part of myself that I try so hard to keep tucked away.
Normally I’m all about context and exposition but dispensing with such feels right this week. The lively bit of syncopated piano chords that start off Good Luck Studio had just that drop of swagger in their delivery, and were mixed to get just that right amount of tonal polish — showing the instrument’s initial prominence — that I couldn’t help but wonder if I was in store for a Ben Folds-style record. (Later career Folds, not raw as that to which earlier OYR pick, Ben Kweller’s Sha Sha is often compared.) This first thought was quickly shoved together with others, which included musings over how much this band like their jazz and swing (“Handle It“), if their folk interest includes any Sara Watkins material (There are moments, like on “Lives Of Strangers,” when Hannah Williams’ vocal style emits a pleasant wispy quality, reminiscent of Watkins on early Nickel Creek cuts), and how many Broadway shows the group has collectively attended over the years. Outside of these general impressions however, it’s difficult to really pin Friday Mile down with this album. That might be a justifiably excuse-cliché for almost every band that says “we have no one style” or conversely lists every one under the sun but here, it’s appropriate (and explains the more than dozen-artist-long Facebook influence list spanning from Joni Mitchell to Dr. Dog). Not only does the band bring to mind a few different stylistic or compositional influences but it’s also about the ratio at which they choose to dial in those varied preferences and, in what manner each is chosen to be embodied on one song to the next. “Autograph,” for example, with its alternation between vocal and instrumental focus, narrative style lyrics, and harmonizing duet sections, has that definite musical vibe. Somehow though, despite channeling a smorgasbord of qualities and descriptors across lyrics, instrumentation, mix aesthetic, vocal arrangement, and song form, Good Luck Studio doesn’t come across like a misguided or uncertain cluster of tracks. Cohesion is there — most likely achieved through interpersonal band chemistry alone — and because it holds together this well, I’m inclined to applaud the album for pulling off so much difference without making me lose my way before reaching the end of lyrically minimal, quietly contemplative closer, “Even I.”
Friday Mile was a relaxing break from my usual punk rock demeanor, and Good Luck Studio was just what I needed to unwind. Their sound took me back to the Hush Sound, a band I worshipped in high school. This is a compliment, I promise. The masculine and feminine vocals make for a more subdued Hush Sound that’s less pop punk and more atmospheric. Overall, there’s a definite trance-like and cyclic feeling to this release. It spans a couple of genres and influences and allows for some variety in writing style throughout. One could hear folk, emo, pop, jazz, and rock all in the span of just one song sometimes which is truly a treat to the ears. What’s fun about this release is that it sounds like the band had a lot of fun writing and recording it. When you can hear that easy-going and carefree exchange between instruments, it’s a superbly special feeling. I was also struck by how clean the vocalists crooned, especially on a track like “Handle It” which is equally as a great an opening track to an album overall. Another favorite of mine from this LP would be “I Took It All,” an absolutely gorgeous, lounge-y tune that melts in shining sounds. I fell in love with Friday Mile’s slower-paced songs which were much more serene and sweet, another example being “Not Frozen.” I checked out the band’s Facebook page to discover that they appear to be working on new material. Just in time — they have a new fan in me.
Singers Jace Krause and Hannah Williams shine on their own, but really make Friday Mile remarkable when harmonizing and conversing in their music.
Good Luck Studio by Seattle-based Friday Mile takes a bit to unwind. Their influences are wide; ranging from Beatles-inflected pop (“Even I“) to slight jazzy-rock (“Westerfield“), to power-pop Elvis Costello-style on “FYI,” to roots ballad in “Not Frozen,” and to infallible girl-boy pop in the magnetically charming, “Adorable Machine.” The songs here are well-paced with a talented full band, and the vocals traded between lead-singer and band leader & guitarist Jace Krause and keyboard player Hannah Williams are tempered with nuanced songwriting, and well-crafted harmonies (“FYI”). I found myself drawn to the organ-pop and bittersweet lyrics of “Adorable Machine,” (Williams’ vocals on this are a light, heartbreaking, and a raspy whisper next to Krause’s for most of the song until it crescendos sweetly into a bridge with beautiful and floating full harmonies). Coupled with the sad piano and twanging slide-guitar of “Not Frozen” — a song about letting go of the present to embrace the possibilities of a future without forcing it to happen — these are two of the most emotive and beautiful songs on the album. Good Luck Studio is a bit of a crate digger; track to track, it’s an album with flecks of gold among the silver. The beauty is neatly between the lines — you only need listen to find a melody that will speak to you. For fans of Jason Isbell or Brendan Benson who are looking for more of a ’70s rock or power-pop bent, this certainly wouldn’t hit far from that mark.
Now this is an album to put you in a good mood. Good Luck Studio has all the makings of a fun finally-the-end-of-the-week-is-here-let’s-party record. It’s only fitting that I’m listening to this on the Friday before it’s due after a very long and exhausting week. As soon as “Handle It” comes on you know you’re in for a good ride. Best songs to listen to? “Handle It” and “Not Frozen.” You’ll thank me later.
After calling out twice this week from work with severely upset stomach and anxiety that curled my fingers into little ineffective fists, my doctor prescribed Prozac. I’m no stranger to the world of controllable feelings, and as I sat in the depressing waiting alcove of Walgreens, my eyes filled with competing defiance and sheepishness at the prescription, I thought “at least this med will help me get over the anxiety of having to go on these meds again.” Rest, the doctor said, hand over responsibilities, chill out at work, stop. All good in theory. Hard, though, if you have two stressful jobs and write on the side and are getting married and are generally neurotic. Hard, if you’re me. But Sunday I woke up, full of purpose, planning and willfully cheerful and busy as Eric got ready to go to work all day, leaving me with every handshaking insecurity, every breath-catching worry. I put on Good Luck Studio as a backdrop to laundry, writing a new resume, grading finals, petting the cat. Familiar in a sense, with an opening track like a soundtrack — grand, bouncy, hesitant — I could work and not feel alone in the yawn of our echoey apartment. I can handle it, I thought, moving through my day one minute at a time. The mewling wail of Hannah Williams, cutting through cheerful keys and drums to say “don’t want to live [her] only life this way, don’t want to give [her] own life away” was bolstering, and even though the album overall wasn’t necessarily always upbeat, it was consistently optimistic. Breaking from work, deciding to make something healthy and actually eat it carried my evening, because that is what People Who Do Not Need Prozac do and I want to be one of those people again soon. Standing on my porch, green beans sautéing in the pan, a breeze cutting the kitchen heat, we slow into “Funny Thing,” the intro so quiet at first I can’t hear it over the sizzle. In the simple keys, the low background moan, I remember Fleetwood Mac, the sound of my childhood, and those fears I have slunk along the floor, back again to bite at my ankles. I finish the food, push it to a back burner, choosing instead to listen to “Even I,” let the wave crash down my chest once more. The food can wait, grow cold; I need to hear this epic guitar, the low and smooth vocals, to think about Pink Floyd and the Beatles and let everything go for a few minutes.
Don’t spend your time trying to pin down their style — as soon as you get close, they’re off exploring & celebrating a completely different pocket of music.
Friday Mile is like a Chris Isaak, or a Del Amitri, for the quirky indie age we’re living in. Pleasant pop tunes, mixing upbeat sounds with the occasional downtempo balladry, and of course bringing the male-female vocal harmonies. It serves a purpose, for sure — brightening up your day if you really just need something nice to listen to without engaging too much. And it has definite highlights; “I Took It All” is the most memorable of the slower tunes, while “Adorable Machine” brings the best chorus — one that is warm and sweet, and will lead you to look up from your book with a wistful smile on your face. As I have long argued about “New Slang” by The Shins, though, this isn’t an album that will change your life by any means. Then again, I’m not exactly Natalie Portman either, so who am I to judge? Bring some color to your next gray day with some sweet tuneage by Friday Mile. Or, alternately, any of the thousands of other equally fine indie albums out there just like this one. I’m sure you have a few in your collection already.
It took me a few songs — “Adorable Machine” was when it hit me — to pinpoint why Good Luck Studio reminded me of the Rosebuds. It wasn’t just that lead vocal duties were shared between male and female voices, though that’s certainly a point of comparison. It’s that Jace Krause’s voice has a comfortable quality to it — the same quality that made it so easy to fall for Ivan Howard’s singing. (Quick shoutout to Spacebomb Records, which is releasing Howard’s debut solo album in September.) By “comfortable,” I don’t necessarily mean comforting; I wasn’t noticing how soothed I was by Krause. More that his delivery is so natural and intuitive that it felt familiar right away. Like a new couch that had the perfect ass groove waiting the first time you sat down. (Yes, I just got a new couch, and no, it did not have a perfect ass groove waiting. I miss you, old couch. You’re on thin ice, new couch.) The bending lead guitar notes in “Adorable Machine” have a similar quality, inviting you to settle into the song’s languid pace and personality. That said, a complementary Friday Mile quality stood out even more quickly, and it balances things out nicely: the band’s knack for crafting impactful moments. So many songs start with dynamite, intriguing lyrics, like “Handle It” (“We were packing our bags in the dark”), “Not Frozen” (“Sometimes you lean on the wrong people”) and “FYI” (You forgot my celebration, but I still had a wonderful time”). And I love that Good Luck Studio keeps you guessing, with tracks that take hard left turns, like “I Took It All” and “Autograph.” Familiarity and fun surprises, all in one tidy, re-listenable 10-track package. I dig it.
Good Luck Studio suffers a bit from what I call “first track syndrome,” where the first song is so astonishingly good that the rest of the album pales in comparison. In my experience of this last album (maybe — rumors are more music is coming in 2017) by Friday Mile, it didn’t really recover from the blistering Badfinger glam of “Handle It” until the sixth song, “Not Frozen.” Maybe that makes sense because in vinyl terms, “Not Frozen” would open side two, where you would want another strong song. But “Handle It” is such killer song that I urge you to stop reading and get to its waltz-time piano intro, slashing guitars, and pretty but insinuating chorus. The piano and guitars work together beautifully, the backup vocals shine, and there’s a story to be told in the lyrics, one I don’t mind hearing over and over again. Songwriting, performance, production — all flawless. There are good ideas in all the songs that follow but my ears don’t really prick up again until “Not Frozen,” which deploys a mournful pedal-steel to perfection and one of Jace Krause’s most assured vocals. I also like “FYI;” it’s got that power-pop drive, all jangly guitars and stately piano. It also helps me pinpoint some of my frustration with the rest of the album. Krause is a good singer and when he harmonizes with Hannah Williams, they sound great together, but her solo spots seem less settled to me. The result is me, as a listener, feeling somewhat adrift. But when the members of Friday Mile nail it, they knock it all the way into next week.
I have this small, brown writer’s notebook I’ve had since right after high school graduation. Nothing fancy; I bought it at Office Max when I was beginning to write for publications and still enjoying that byline high when something’s printed. I remember stuffing a very small, almost illegible “Writing Do’s and Don’ts” card in one of the flaps and over the years, I started to write down my own do’s and don’ts on bits of paper and stuffed them alongside the laminated one. Though the contents of this flap have varied over the years, two scraps of paper with my terrible handwriting have stayed: one on card stock that says “Don’t just write your first impression down — it’s lazy” and another on a bright post-it note that says “Avoid band comparisons and ‘this meets that.’ Overdone.” Still great advice I think, but I’m about to blow right past them in talking about Friday Mile and Good Luck Studio. From the first song, I just thought, “Man, this kind of sounds like Swell Season meeting up with Wilco.” There was just something about the folk-y lyrics and the music that had this huge desire to rock, but not be rock music which reminds me so much of the first time I saw Wilco in concert. It might have been better to say it was a mix-up of Swell Season and The Frames, or the central core of Glen Hansard’s musical philosophy, but by the time “Adorable Machine” kicked in, with its “You & I” breeze and “One Sunday Morning” shuffle, it was clear that my first impression was warranted and I was going to have to thumb my nose at my notebook tenets. There is much more to talk about here — the diverse and uncluttered melodies, the deliberate and patient pacing, the charming free spirit — but I can’t help but picture Hansard and Markéta Irglová sliding in right next to Jeff Tweedy when I put this on, and it beautifully sends me back to the summer of 2009 when I was sitting in bed, stuffing more scraps into that notebook, and enjoying the hell out of Wilco (The Album) and Strict Joy, not knowing that something beautifully complimentary was going to come out a few months later from Friday Mile.
Semigoddess by Novelty Daughter
Chosen By Jeremy Shatan