Odyssey is the Sony Masterworks debut of the Accidentals, a versatile indie folk trio that emerged from the Interlochen Arts Academy near Traverse City, Michigan. Formed by then-high school students Savannah Buist and Katie Larson, both of whom write, sing, and play several instruments for the group, the Accidentals toured extensively and released two albums before graduating. After deciding to put off college to pursue their burgeoning music career full-time (which meant passing on a presidential scholarship to the Berklee College of Music for Larson), they added drummer Michael Dause to the lineup and did a lot more touring. Odyssey follows a dalliance with Marshall Crenshaw's production company and a subsequent self-released EP. Their first full-length record as adults, Odyssey is indeed their most mature release to date, presenting 13 tracks that vary in tempo, influence, and, to a degree, instrumentation, but settle into an expansive yet breezy folk-rock. A song like "KW," namesake of solo jam band act Keller Williams, who plays guitars on the track, has a syncopated groove, rapid-fire lyrics, and streaks of improvisation. Like a lot of the band's output, the arrangements are primarily acoustic (there is electric guitar on the track), but it doesn't seem particularly noteworthy on what are at heart catchy pop songs. Later, the wistful "Chekhov’s Gun" relies more heavily on keyboards and vocal harmonies. About the unavoidability of change and heartbreak in life, it's one of four tracks that feature the Decemberists' Jenny Conlee on organ or piano. She also appears on the more playful "The Sounds a Watch Makes When Enveloped in Cotton" (from a line in Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart"), a bluesy ditty that's one of a handful that they played live for a few years before getting around to recording them. Arguably the folkiest song on the album is the drums-free instrumental closer "Ballad Tendered Gun," which features avant-garde musician Kaki King on acoustic guitar. It's a fittingly bright but bittersweet, and musically unresolved finish to an album that seems very much about taking things in and pressing onward. Despite a certain amount of geekiness -- in terms of the lyrics, the array of influences, and some jammy performance passages (not that there’s anything wrong with that) -- Odyssey is entirely approachable, and it’s can’t-miss for those who like a sweet melody with a good Star Trek reference.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson