Josh Joplin Band
The Josh Joplin Band is an Atlanta four-piece on singer-songwriter Shawn Mullins' independent SMG label. Mullins produced Useful Music, which is the band's third record, and he brings a nice organic, acoustic sound to the proceedings on songs like the opening "Matter." Viola is a prominent instrument on songs like "Far Away" and "I've Changed." The band also uses complex drum machine programs to underscore their folk-pop sound much as Beck has been known to do.
Joplin sings the songs in a voice that recalls REM's Michael Stipe and Live frontman Edward Kowalczyk (without the histrionics) with perhaps a touch of Neil Finn and maybe Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues. But Joplin's style is understated and almost deadpan on most tracks.
The cleverly-titled "Who's Afraid of Thomas Wolfe" sounds like a lighter version of the eels with instruments cutting in and out at different times. On the piano ballad "Phil Ochs," Joplin laments the death of good rock-n-roll. "Fifty fans can't be wrong or can they? Our surveys say all they want is Sugar Ray," Joplin sings.
"Superstar is more like folk-hip hop with Joplin's rap vocal. But the band saves the best for last. "Dutch Wonderland" is a pretty guitar and piano ballad about childhood memories with a nice eye for detail. "Couple skates, lovesick songs in moments without pause as Johnny Cougar amplified our cause," he sings wistfully.
The Josh Joplin Band isn't necessarily a band to get excited about, but this record is a very nice listen.