Cape Canyon – Bluebonnet EP – Classic, beautiful sound with sophisticated folk, rock, and country songwriting elements

Cape Canyon are one of my favorite finds of 2014. They have absolutely stunning harmonies and a truly unique overall sound. There’s a certain raw authenticity in their writing. It’s not to say that they are inexperienced so much as to say that they are very new… in a good way. Every track on this incredible Bluebonnet EP takes the band in a slightly different direction. It’s evident that they have an ear and a direction toward a classic, beautiful sound. This album is a must-listen for folks who typically follow my writing. It’s on the short list for my album of the year in 2014.

According to their bandcamp page Kyle Emerson Miller is the writer behind this phenomenal album. His last name might be “Wilson” (as in a direct relative of Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys) given the layered harmonies throughout the album. They are no more exquisite than in “I must be dreaming.” The melody, harmonies, and lyrics come together for a vintage sound that is sure to make a lot of fans. “I don’t feel the sunshine. I don’t feel any joy at all. My nights are longer. My love is leaving me.” What a heartbroken song. He hopes it’s a dream and that he’ll wake up and everything will be okay. That “dreamlike” state is conveyed with harmonies. The sophistication of this writing, both lyrically and sonically, reflects a much more mature band than the young men of Cape Canyon.

The much lighter “So long, tangerine” is an absolute beach jam. Conjuring images (and maybe even smells) of citrus and sunlight, the track gets listeners up and dancing. The harmonies are still rich and fulfilling, reminding me of the Beach Boys again. It’s Cali all the way (even though they recorded the album in the flatlands of northwest Ohio). The lyrics are more complicated than initially meets the ear. It’s fundamentally about loneliness, presumably after the end of a relationship, but it reflects on the good times before that lonely feeling. It’s really good, too.

The title track “Bluebonnet” is pretty fantastic in its own right. The opening guitar line is a completely different style. The lead vocal sounds just like Charlie Wilson (from Charlie and the Foxtrots). It’s a sort of high lead with sincerity. “I opened up and seasons are changing so I should be leaving now…” Again the track seems to be highlighting transition. “What’s bluebonnet? Just a dream.” The music is pretty simplistic, but the message is elaborate. It’s about coping with life after a relationship in which you’ve opened your heart to someone. Wow.

“Cornerstone” is sophisticated in a completely different way. Feeling more like a “pop” track and less like a folk song, it’s an easy listening rock song. “I’m thinking about forever…” the key lyric delivered by the lead singer with layers of background vocals behind him. It’s a song ultimately about identity both looking back at memories, but also looking forward at who he wants to be. He is already questioning the “rockstar life” and what it could mean for who he is and who he wants to be. Impressive again.

“Suite: Jane #3” is not a “song” or a “track” so much as it is a “piece.” Orchestral in its composition, it’s more of the Fleet Foxes flavor than anything else I’ve heard in a while. The flavor of the song overall is 70s classic folk rock, but there are parts that feel so vibrant and unique they don’t fit any easy category. The hymnodic “friends” resolve about three-quarters of the way through the song is a timeless Americana salvo. The repetitious “I want to see the sun” refrain that follows is awesome in so many ways. Lyrically it speaks to a hopeful dream of “being the one,” but then sonically it conveys that sense of hope and longing of a rising sun. This is not run-of-the-mill first EP fodder here, folks. This is incredible songwriting.

“Magenta” begins with the finger-picked acoustic like “Cornerstone.” Following more of the traditional folk song style, it’s a calming oasis at the end of an emotionally heavy album. It is not a shallow song by any means, but the way the song is written it’s a bit more relaxed overall. The words wrestle with a post-relationship identity crisis, both from conflicts within the relationship and, “someone I used to be.” This track seems interestingly the most personal (with inside references) but it still has the universal appeal, “maybe it’s the truth that makes me want to hide.” Well written and engaging, it’s the perfect way to end a phenomenal album.

I don’t think I could gush much more about this album. The praise is well deserved. These are fantastic songs. I am extremely glad I stumbled across the album. I hope that readers will give it a good, serious listen. This is the kind of art that helps justify why our website even exists. It’s deep and searching in important ways. Please share this review and share this music with anyone interested in the folk revival and good songwriting.

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