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Review: Maudlin Strangers EP
The solo project of Jake Hays is set to be released this December

It’s been said that strangers are merely best friends that you haven’t met yet, so, allow us to introduce you to Maudlin Strangers, our/your new musical besties. The California-based band is the solo project of multifaceted musician Jake Hays, who actually plays every instrument on every track AND provides all of the vocals! Oh...did I mention that he is also the son of former Runaways singer Cherie Currie (he played drums on her recent tour,) and actor Robert Hays?  Music is in his DNA. The Maudlin Strangers’ new EP is set to be released in a couple of weeks.  It’s an eclectic mix of chill rock, with influences ranging from Pink Floyd to The Black Keys, and it is masterful. 

The album kicks off with Say Nothing, a song that transports listeners to the California coast with the classic new-wave-inspired beat. Jake’s voice blends perfectly with the mild synths as he croons about the torture of secret love, pleading, “I won’t say nothing about it / You have my word, I promise.” After the insistent Say Nothing, comes the bluesy AIM. Sounding like a mixture of The Dead Weather and Arctic Monkeys, AIM is filled with a steady bass line that will have you swaying. Jake waxes lyrical about the down sides of stardom, “I’m sorry I don’t want to know who you are / curiosity leaves when you take this job / I’m just keeping the peace with my insight / a bag full of money can be easy on the eyes.” After a creeping verse, Maudlin Strangers take it up a notch, showcasing Jake’s vocals in a chorus that soars.

Penny, the first single of the album, features a twangier sound than usual, with deep guitar distortion and long, drawn-out chords. Penny is a story about heartbreak, “it’s just one against the world / and every day, I hope it’ll get better” It tells of moving on from a lost love, and how every day is a struggle at first. Gentle drum beats provid a balanced feel while the lyrics take the listener on a trip down memory lane. Stay Young is a personal favorite of ours. A tale about the dangers of growing up too fast, Stay Young encourages listeners to stay young “til we die.” It has a haunting intro, embellished with tinkling keyboards that lead into a heavy, Black-Keys-esque riff. It is a standout track that will resonate with many modern blues rock lovers. Simply put, Stay Young is sexy, and paired with the track’s brooding undertones, is well on its way to being a hit.

I Suppose surprises listeners with its dream pop influences that are reminiscent of acts like Still Corners and Cayucas. Maudlin Strangers also embrace psychedelia with repeated lyrics, soaring multi-layered textures, and spacey percussion.  Lastly, Overdose begins innocently enough, describing a mellow Friday night with his love, torn between falling for her and being skittish about how close she’s getting. “Stoned out of our minds,” he sings, pleading, “keep me close, because I’ll do whatever it takes to fall into the sky.” Hays gets maudlin, “I catch your flame to light your cigarette /I like the way you smoke it, yeah /and now against all the odds you’re gonna fix me up.” Rising percussion sweeps listeners into the chorus, as it begins to fade.

Maudlin Strangers embraces a compilation of genres in this new EP, including dream pop, blues, hard rock, and indie.  The strangers are probably also the most exciting new band to come around in quite a while now.  We at Joonbug are already eagerly anticipating the release of even newer material...it’s THAT good.   So remember: strangers, especially Maudlin ones, are just best friends waiting to happen.