Genre is a term as solid as it is broad. When you think country, rock, or hip-hop you likely have an example that stands out upon a simple mention. Though within these loose categories, many sub-categories exist and most artists focus on a perfecting their favorites. Existential Frontiers by White Owl Red takes you on a ride through the many faces of folk music. From start to finish, the tracks in this LP ooze individuality and personality. Each track is crafted with care to bring a specific feel to the listener and works well as they mix into one another.
The titular track starts the album off with a very Johnny Cash feeling. The rambling instrumentals bring about a very retro aesthetic to the track. The guitar remains free as the percussion guides the song through a tale of feeling left behind in an ever-changing world. The nostalgic feel of the song is not continued though. Going into the next track, Breaking Away, the album takes a much softer tone. The bass guitar grounds the melancholy vocal performance through this eclectic track. The guitar and percussion is fantastic here and adds a ton of personality to the track without compromising the sorrowful tone. Good Morning Moonshine is a stand-out track in the first half of Existential Frontiers. This track has a Disney-like aesthetic with a perfectly bouncy beat. The track is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face as it harkens you back to a simpler time. With its plucky guitars and a bass groove that grounds the track in a traditional folk aesthetic, it brings a fun and inspired experience to the album.
Union Fight Song is another stand-out track for the complete opposite reason. The track is the only one that deviates from a folk aesthetic and opts for a much more Bad Religion feel. The rage-filled lyrics come through just fine even with Josef McManus’ soft vocals at the helm. The lyrical tale of worker oppression is conveyed well here and offers some hard-hitting social commentary. The track shares an aesthetic with an earlier track, I’m a Saint, which introduces you to this more punk rock feel of the band. The LP as a whole though carries a heavy theme of introspection, love, loss, growth and pays it off in the final three tracks. These tracks work in tandem to offer a satisfying outro the the album and with a very complete feeling.
Existential Frontiers is a very up front album title. The themes explored in this album are personal and deep, allowing the messages to hit hard when delivered. Each track both tells its own story and offers an important piece to the overall narrative of the LP. The artistry and musicianship of Josef McManus and his band is front-and-center here and offers something for everyone. Existential Frontiers deserves a full listen to experience not only each track but the story that comes alongside it, told with the many faces of folk.