Mike Adams at His Honest Weight found the titular Adams recording with help from some of his touring band on the 2019 release, There Is No Better Feeling, but for last year’s Graphic Blandishments, the multi-instrumentalist took advantage of his home studio’s multi-track utility to record on his own, layering instruments and vocals to create a full sound for his power pop confections. Still working on his own here on Guess for Thrills, Adams is in a more reflective mood, and favors textured electro-pop synths over faster, edgier guitar pop tones of earlier outings, in fact four of the album’s 12 tracks are electronic instrumentals, two merely a minute or less in length.
“Basement Spacemen” might be a reflection on Adam’s place in the artistic universe, working in his modest studio, “buying time in my own basement,” while dreaming of creating art with the potential to reach the stars, “as we all change into spacemen.” Turning 40 with two growing children, working on his sixth full-length release, he wonders am I “the last ape or the first cave man?”, but in the end he knows that the real reward is in the act of creation itself. It’s then that he can “let the wild to wonders/let the wild be wonderful.”
That reflective tone runs through most of the tracks here, with tracks like “Half Fool” and “Golden Rule Breakdown,” recalling mid-tempo pop efforts by Fountains of Wayne or Todd Rundgren, although Adams’ curious sense of irony runs throughout. Like the lyric about how “I might not ever rest,” in the song titled “Every Choice the Highest Mountain.” “Pyramid Schemes” seems to want to take the wind out of the sales of the popular prosperity teachings of some religious groups, but remains vague about what actually is “in control, and embarrassing, always.” Like most folk in the suburban “rat race,” Adams feels the pressure of having to deal with “Everything Nonstop.”
In the flowing closing ballad, “Grass-Green Weeds,” Adams bemoans that things of value often look very similar to the things that you want to discard, get rid of. The saving grace for this musician and artist, forging his own path, following his own muse, is that “I can tell when nothing else means anything to me?” It’s that awareness that helps center on the things that matter, or as he concludes in “Every Choice the Highest Mountain,” it’s the “kind of thing a guy could get used to/make it last, make it last.” We can’t always capture the special moments in our lives, but songwriters and artists like Mike Adams are able to lay down a marker in song and story, and Guess for Thrills is a solid next chapter on his journey.
“Golden Rule Breakdown” / “Basement Spaceman” / “Half Fool”
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Snail Mail / Sufjan Stevens / Chris Stamey
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