Review: A. Savage offers mature songwriting on his first solo album ‘Thawing Dawn’

A. Savage’s first solo album features a distinct, alt-country sound. (Mister Pink/Flickr)

Andrew Savage has always been busy. In the late 2000s, he was a member of two different bands –– Teenage Cool Kids, and Fergus & Geronimo. More recently, he has found success as a singer and guitarist for the art-punk band Parquet Courts — currently one of the most acclaimed acts in indie-rock. Savage also runs his own label, Dull Tools, out of Brooklyn, New York, and works as a visual artist making prints and paintings.

Yet somehow, between these various projects and interests, Savage has managed to quietly put out his first ever solo release, “Thawing Dawn,” under the new moniker A. Savage. This new solo album does not come in the wake of a previous band’s dissolution — as many solo projects often do. “Thawing Dawn” simply functions as an opportunity for Savage to dive deeper into his own songwriting and release music that wouldn’t have ended up anywhere else.

Those familiar with Savage’s music won’t be surprised to hear a country influence on this new album. His previous work with Teenage Cool Kids and and Parquet Courts often flirted with an alt-country sound, but on “Thawing Down” it comes on strong. The opening track “Buffalo Calf Road,” features a very noticeable slide guitar and a brief organ solo, along with narrative-driven lyrics about the American frontier.

“Phantom Limbo” features similar instrumentation along with a bouncy, country bass. As always, Savage’s lyrics are clever and melancholic. “At night when my bones surrender to wind blown from the sea / And I’m sure that you’re the sweetest breeze that’s ever blown through me.”

“Wild, Wild, Wild Horses,” a stripped down organ ballad with sparse drums and guitar, demonstrates the strength of Savage’s songwriting through stark minimalism. An untitled track near the album’s end, featuring only a church organ and a passionate vocal performance, accomplishes the same.

Savage often writes like a punk artist trapped as a singer-songwriter — or maybe the other way around. “Thawing Dawn” celebrates traditional songwriting, while simultaneously pushing it to its breaking point. The anxious “What Do I Do,” which functions well as the album’s centerpiece, repeats a simple melody and guitar pattern until a noisy, anarchic horn section bursts through its seams.

The album’s closer, “Thawing Dawn,” is the most forward-thinking song on the album. Its structure feels like it was spliced together on tape, with blunt transitions between mellow verses and energetic finger picking –– which works remarkably well. Once again, Savage writes brilliant lyrics: “Most religion is as far from faith / As the sun is from the shadows it shapes.”

“Thawing Dawn” received hardly any promotion, and it’s likely to fly under many radars; however, “Thawing Dawn” is one of the best albums to come out this year. Andrew Savage has matured his songwriting in a way that feels organic. He has created something that stands well on its own.

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