Boy Scouts

Free Company

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A longtime D.I.Y. musician from Central California, Taylor Vick makes her Anti- label debut with the breakup-fueled Free Company. It arrives nine years after her first record under the Boy Scouts alias. Working with collaborators for the first time, she recorded Free Company with singer/songwriter Stephen Steinbrink in his makeshift studio in a rented shipping container (Container Studio), qualifying it also as her studio debut. While the recording quality is a couple steps up from the voice memos and home recordings of her prior releases, the songwriter was already presenting rich, sometimes beguiling full-band arrangements on her songs, if tracking them all on her own. Here, Steinbrink played drums, bass, and synths on parts of the album, which also includes appearances by a few others, including Rose Droll on piano. What remains constant from Boy Scouts' prior material is the pastel-colored, hopeful quality of Vick's vocal tone, melodies, and chord structures, even as her lyrics come to terms with harsh realizations. That quality can be heard right from the album's sunlit opening guitar hook on the mid-tempo "Get Well Soon," a song about reaching a point of stalemate when trying to help a loved one ("Got a thought of you/Do you have one too?/I hope you think of you/'Cause we all want you to"). Vick's double-tracked vocals on the song separate into harmonies in its languid, lilting chorus. Lilting melodies are a trait of Vick's songwriting, also present on crunchier, more up-tempo songs like "Expiration Date" and "Cut It." Even with its distortion and vague pop-punk sensibility, the latter is still delicate and contemplative under Vick's direction. Hard on herself as well as her partner at times on the album, it closes with the downcast ballad "You Were Once," which summarizes their standing with "We were like a sticker/Permanent only for some patch of time." Mournful but far from bleak, it features sustained, girl group-styled backing vocals and an echoing guitar countermelody in addition to its restrained rhythm section. Taken together, Free Company is a moving and pleasingly head-bobbing set, and its clarified sound presents the songwriter in her best light to date without over-polishing.

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