Next year already looks pretty promising because “Eternal Lightweight,” the stellar second album from Little Rock indie pop trio Adventureland, comes out Jan. 1.
The record, which at times calls to mind groups like Galaxie 500 and the Weatherthans, possesses a moodiness that often colors along many of the songs’ sunny edges, and subjects like growing up, moving on and the highs and lows of relationships are explored in a smart, thoughtful way that is especially endearing. It doesn’t hurt that the album’s 11 songs, which were mixed by Bennett Littlejohn (who worked on albums by Hovvdy, Sinai Vessel, Katy Kirby), are relentlessly tuneful and appealing.
One of the things that makes Adventureland unique is that all three members — Daniel Grear, 29, Travis Kish, 28 and Nate Drahn, 28 — write and sing their own songs. One might think that having three songwriters in the band would lean toward the disparate, but that’s not the case here. Their songs come across as of a piece and cohesive, living next to each other quite comfortably with little hints that, upon repeated listens, set them slightly apart.
There’s also the pure convenience of having three gifted writers in the same band.
“We’re all pretty slow, methodical writers, particularly me,” Grear says. “I’m lucky if I write two songs a year. With the band I can do two or three songs, Nate can do two or three, Travis can do four or five and we’ve got an album.”
Tracks on “Eternal Lightweight” range from the gentle folk of Kish’s album opener, “Tetonia”; to the string-laden power pop of Drahn’s “Next Summer,” which veers slightly into Beach Boys territory for a bit; to the gorgeous restraint of Grear’s “Blankets” and Kish’s sweet, gender-bending, “Southern Girls,” which is one of those fantastically fun songs you’ll be singing to yourself for days after hearing it.
And if “Eternal Lightweight” sounds like an album made by three buddies who really enjoy playing on each other’s songs, that’s because it is. Grear, Kish and Drahn met as students at Hendrix College in Conway. All three had been solo artists before forming the band in 2017. Their first show was in November of that year at Kings Live Music in Conway.
“We performed some songs together, but we performed some solo stuff as well,” Grear says. “It was like a collective of friends playing together.”
The group released its debut LP, “Hopes of Closure,” in 2020.
“That was mostly songs we had written before we were a band,” Kish says. “It was also recorded in one space because we were all living together in North Little Rock.”
While the debut was a little more guitar heavy — “indie rock with emo tinges,” Grear says –“Eternal Lightweight” is a reflection of the band’s progression.
“I think we’ve grown a lot as musicians and in our ability to collaborate,” Kish says. “On the whole, the album is a little more sentimental than ‘Hopes of Closure.'”
The new record is also more diverse, Grear adds.
“It has a wider range. In the past few years, Travis has experimented around a lot with drum machines and synths that make an appearance on ‘Eternal Lightweight.'”
Those electronic textures and sounds are put to good use on Kish’s nostalgic, shimmering “To the Pool.”
Along with synthy string effects, Drahn provides violin on several tracks including “Tetonia,” “Next Summer” and “Blowing Up.”
Grear, Kish and Drahn, who are all primarily guitarists, frequently switch off on instruments during shows and while recording.
“It feels about as collaborative and instrumentally interchangeable as you can imagine,” Grear says.
Kish and Grear live in Little Rock, but Drahn is in Mexico until the summer, so the chances of an Adventureland show anytime soon are slim. In the meantime, “Eternal Lightweight” will be on your favorite streaming service on Jan. 1, and there may be hope for Adventureland vinylphiles.
“We have been seriously thinking about doing [an LP] and have toyed around with maybe doing a Kickstarter [campaign] to fund that,” Grear says.
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