Growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s, I listened to a lot of alternative rock and punk. During that particular era, punk found itself in the mainstream with acts ranging from Green Day to Blink 182. This wasn’t exactly the kind of punk I was into, but that meant the better stuff was on the underground. From that came the ’emo’ movement. Don’t worry I’m not gonna sing the praises of that era in the article. But it’s important to note that when those emo bands weren’t screaming and writing in superficial pain, they generally had a delicate acoustic track on each album. When you’re an angsty young person you’d skip past those tracks. However, the older I got the more I appreciated those tracks. They were essentially proving grounds for those bands.
Acoustic guitars and minimalist production meant relying entirely on talent. The same reasons I love Sylmar so much and why Telford is one of the most satisfying releases of the year.
As with Sylmar’s debut album Transaturated Tunes, it’s difficult to describe just what genre the band falls into. Sometimes there are garage aesthetics, R&B vibes, and folk instrumentation. Every now and then there’s even a hint of non-cowboy country sounds. No matter how or what you label them, Sylmar exhibit a unique sound and they do it with effortless swagger. Telford doesn’t play as fast and loose with genres like Transaturated Tunes but it doesn’t make it any easier to describe it without throwing generic terminology around.
But Telford is better than that. The entire record is made up of tracks much like the proving grounds of those emo bands from yesteryear. That’s not to say the album is full of melodramatic fluff or stylized mushiness. Each track may be light and airy, but it never drifts into that eye-rolling pretentiousness found in something like the softer tracks of Brand New or Dashboard Confessional.
One of my favorite aspects of Telford is the instrumentation on each track.
Despite being a low-key album of vulnerability, Sylmar go above and beyond clumsy strumming or sing-song choruses. From the opening track “Wonder”, with it’s low-tech talking in the background, to the Led Zeppelin “Rain Song”-esque “Never Meant More”, Sylmar have expanded their ethos. “Nonnude” showcases the band’s witty wordplay, while “Benefits” flirts with Turin Brakes meets Big Thief. All things I never would’ve guessed going by previous releases. All in all, Telford hits upon notes I haven’t heard in a long time. Giving me something familiar while being fresh and new in ways no other release has done for me this year.
Telford is now available on vinyl in very limited quantities from Soul Step Records.