Release Date: October 30, 2015
The entertainment industry seems to require constant reinvention to keep the public interested. Many are then times when a favorite band has come out with an album that’s completely outside the realm of their main body of work. Greg Graffin’s solo work is a far cry from his work as frontman/songwriter of the legendary Bad Religion, but it’s still good. On California Sounds Yotam, known for his work with punk stalwarts Useless ID, gives a stripped down acoustic performance of ten new tracks. His second solo album, preceded by 2012’s Distant Lover, sees the Israeli singer-songwriter offering emotive songs that blur the line between punk structures and folk delivery.
The overarching theme of California Sounds is maturity. This isn’t a rehashing of punk songs on an acoustic guitar, but a collection of well written, soul searching compositions that articulate the emotions and concerns of adult life. “Grandfather” is a James Taylor-style ballad about dealing with a grandparent fighting with cancer. Yotam evokes the frustrations and fears of a man watching an anchor in his life facing mortality. A punk influence riff flows under the repeated line “it’s too late for me, I can’t talk to you,” clearly showing Yotam’s roots. “Young Man Bones” is an introspective indie rock number about growing older without losing the drive of youth. “Days of Living,” juxtaposing pictures of adult life with the excitement of younger days is a more straightforward acoustic rock anthem with great energy. Similarly, the title track is more rock oriented with a catchy chorus and speaks of clinging to home and loved ones despite a life on the road. All of these songs weave tales made of threads common to everyone.
Recorded on analog equipment and classic guitars, California Sounds has a more warm, natural feel than Yotam’s debut. This is an album that’s firmly in the vein of other punks turned acoustic troubadours like Frank Turner and Mike Park, while retaining a unique charm that is singular to Yotam, and maybe more to the point, to this body of work. While recorded between two tours, California Sounds is neither hurried nor incomplete but creates a visceral ambience by retaining the human characteristics that come from making music without relying on technology to perfect every note, pitch and warble. Yotam has created an album that I can relate to, and even lose myself in. California Sounds is the soundtrack to the life of an old friend who I will be visiting regularly.
Reviewed by Jim1340