Year of the Album — #048
Johnny Mainstream – “Shipwrecked” (2011, Sling Slang Records)
Judging by what Johnny Mainstream offers here on Shipwrecked, the music scene in and around Manchester, Conn., must be alive and well. This is Americana music done particularly well, considering the band doesn’t have big label money behind them. Instead, they’ve built their chops the hard (and, dare I say, right) way — by touring relentlessly through the local bar scene, which earned them the growing respect of local musicians, earning a deal with local indie label Sling Slang Records. And though Shipwrecked was released in February and made little splash outside Connecticut, the band’s still out there putting in the hard work to find success. That’s how good music’s supposed to be done, particularly in the indie vein.
But if the music itself wasn’t up to snuff, it wouldn’t matter how hard the band worked at it. Thankfully, the music on Shipwrecked shows a band which is comfortable in its alt-country inspired vein, crafting a simple, unassuming album of indie folk pop confections which quietly assert their dominance the more you listen. “Mobile Phone” is a standout, with a dominant bass line which allows the acoustic guitar and harmonized vocals to have more heft than they otherwise might had the song been strictly acoustic … “you say the word, I’m gonna stick around,” Matthew Maynes sings as a tornado siren wails in the background, giving the song something a really apocalyptic sound, even if beyond the elemental ideas you can’t tell exactly what this song’s really about. What really matters is, once the hook gets in your head, you won’t really care.
This album’s probably not going to blow your mind, but Johnny Mainstream has accomplished a lot here by working hard and stretching their songwriting to the max, creating an album that plays well as a collection of songs you’d expect to go over well in a bar setting. This isn’t the kind of band that’s going to be booed for playing originals rather than covers. And based on the overall depth of Shipwrecked, it wouldn’t be too much to expect these young journeymen to make an impact beyond the Connecticut scene. They’d certainly deserve it.