An Overnight Low, the musical moniker of Portland-based musician and songwriter Chad Walls, is equal parts proper rock band and academic project. On “Piccadilly,” the second album in a proposed trilogy that began with “Euston” last year and will end with “Waverly” next year,” he continues his three-album long exploration in song of a pivotal few years in his life: when he uprooted his entire life to move to England and start a PhD. While there, he found himself compelled to write the songs that eventually made up the albums, detailing in sometimes diary-like fashion what was going on around him. “Piccadilly” was released last week online.
“Piccadilly” is, naturally, a continuation of themes explored in “Euston” — travel, loneliness, acclimating to a new place, emotional duress, missing loved ones, among others. It’s also a musical continuation, that’s very much in keeping with the tuneful, melodic, Beatles-haunted indie pop that was present on the first album. The main difference, this time around, is a marked increase in the edge and crunch present on several of the songs, from the zippy guitar jangle of album opener “Dragonfly” to the harmonized verses of the engaging travelogue “Magellan With a Timetable.” If “Euston” was all about optimism, “Piccadilly” faces reality. An Overnight Low is an engaging project, one that flies just slightly under the radar, and an impressive feat for one songwriter. Here’s hoping that the penultimate album finds a happy medium between the moods of the first two — and a sound that differentiates itself from the relative similarities of the first two.
Another musical project that flies a bit under the radar is Secret Acorns, who in late summer released “On My Way Home, I Swallowed A Cloud,” an odd bit of alt-folk written and recorded in Athens, Georgia by current Winterport residents Christopher Ingraham and Maria Gocze. Extremely well-recorded by Athens producer Andy LeMaster (Now It’s Overheard, Bright Eyes,) the album alternates between pretty minimalism and unusual soundscapes. Falling somewhere in between the spacey psych-folk of Brightblack Morning Light and the emotive, irresistible strangeness of Neutral Milk Hotel. Album opener “Nigh” showcases just Ingraham’s lonesome tenor and guitar, while “Kaiasu” expands the sonic palette and features Gocze’s harmonies. The album’s five full length songs are sandwiched between brief experimental pieces, which lends to its overall otherworldly feeling. It’s yet another nice surprise to come out of the woods of Maine — I’m intrigued enough to look forward to hearing a full-length album, tentatively planned for a 2016 release.