Ross Brown is an unassuming young Midwesterner who leads a group of fellow unassuming Midwesterners in a pop band called Fullbloods. “We’re a boring band with no story,” Brown says.
Well — maybe the story is the songs. By that metric, Mild West, the second full-length from the band (and first on Kansas City label High Dive Records), is a saga, stacked from top to bottom with melodic songwriting and dazzling production.
It’s the destiny of many sonically curious, production-minded musicians to come under the spell of Steely Dan, the patron saints of studio wizardry. Brown— a guy who’s happier demoing experimental tracks in his basement cave than performing for the beery local masses — is of this tribe, and Mild West is him swinging for those fences.
“We wanted to achieve the qualities of hi-fi late ‘70s hits,” Brown says of the creation of Mild West. “We came up with some reference material — Dire Straits, Boz Scaggs, Teddy Pendergrass, Wings, Fleetwood Mac, and the ineffable Steely Dan — and did a lot of intense listening. It’s arguably our favorite part of being a band.”
Fullbloods point their flashlights in those satiny corners on parts of Mild West. Fans of Donald Fagen’s quiet jazz-pop masterpiece The Nightfly will find much to love about tracks like “Neverminded,” “New Generation” and “Shrimp Etouffee.” But Mild West is hardly revivalism. Elsewhere there are more modern influences, like Richard Swift and Real Estate — exceptional songwriters who put a lot of thought into making their records sound beautiful.
Even that doesn’t capture the album, though. There is believable funk present. There’s also an experimental streak running through Mild West. This is a wild album, with unexpected flourishes throughout. It’s easy listening for weirdos, for people who like to be surprised by the music they listen to.
“Caught a feeling,” Brown sings halfway through the album. “Made it mine.”
This record is a feeling — lots of feelings, actually. You ought to make them yours.
Fullbloods are: Ross Brown; Jared Tomasino; David Seume; and Bill Pollock. Mild West was engineered by Mike Nolte (Starfucker, Of Montreal).