For their third full-length album, American Bardo, singer-songwriter duo, Eric Anders and Mark O'Bitz found inspiration in Greg Saunders' award winning novel, Lincoln In The Bardo. Each song in the 12-song collection, or "readers", as vocalist Anders refers to them, is about one or more characters in the story. The resulting album is a collection of warm, often haunting, well-written songs filled with strong lyrics, vocals, and musicianship.
The album leads off with the swampy guitar and electronic drums of "Matterbloomlight." Drenched in echo, the song is at once melodic and melancholy, with a fine guitar solo courtesy of "O'Bitz. "Bury Me" follows and is a stark, acoustic track with a haunting vocal from Anders befitting its title. Strings accent the melody in this standout number.
"My Love" finds the group layering acoustic guitar, heavy bass, and banjo, among others. This dramatic song builds in intensity throughout and showcases another potent vocal from Anders. Instruments swell throughout "A Home The I Can't Know," a warm and melodic track with a gentle falsetto vocal. Produced by Mike Butler, the album revels in this sort of production and fine song craft.
Hypnotic drums and piano start off "Old Theory," a melodic track that allows itself some distorted guitars in the chorus. Anders delivers a soulful vocal here as well. On "Life's Beauty Won," the group offers a strong, well-constructed pop song with some excellent harmonies. The album closes with "Won't Live It Down," a mid-tempo ballad one could imagine Tom Petty doing.
Anders and O'Bitz have crafted a winner with American Bardo. With fine musicianship, excellent vocals and production, and strong lyrics, this album harkens back to a time when pop music had considerably more substance than it does now. Well worth a listen.