The late 1970s are alive and well on Mild High Club’s sophomore album, “Skiptracing.” Well, at least a certain aspect of the decade, the one that existed in smoke circles underneath the bleachers away from school administration and the football team.
The truth is that “Skiptracing’s” connection to the ’70s is not so much in the sound of the music but rather the feel of the album. It captures the hazed-out joy, paranoia and freedom that very much is born from teenagers in that era who had just discovered pot and were figuring out how they might get to second base with Linda from down the street before the end of summer. You can imagine impressionable freshman Mitch and Carl from “Dazed and Confused” listening to the album while drinking their parents’ beer in someone’s pool house.
Mild High Club is the solo venture of Alex Brettin, whose handlebar ‘stache and wiley hair would have made him a shoe-in as an extra in the Richard Linklater classic. He has worked with indie-psych icons such as Ariel Pink and Mac DeMarco and is very much occupying a similar head space as those musicians: white boy, cigarette soul that will sink you into the couch as it begins to ripple over your synapses. The opening title track eases you into the album’s groove with lazy strums of the guitar and Brettin’s nasally croon that is more endearing than satisfying, though its timbre fits his style perfectly. Syncopated cowbells and cymbals add a nice little accent to the rhythm that will raise the eyebrow and stretch out a grin on the listener.
The trip continues with the back-to-back bliss of “Homage” and “Carry Me Back.” “Homage” is a sprightly number of baroque, pop synths and sunny guitar that bleed into the surrounding atmosphere, eventually giving way to the lackadaisical “Carry Me Back” that drifts among the clouds. The light slide work pairs nicely with Brettin’s comatose delivery and the song’s hazy melody eventually bubbles over the mind’s edge and trickles over your forehead and cheeks, until it falls off the chin and into a fluorescent puddle 10,000 feet below you.
“Tessellation” might be the album’s pinnacle as Brettin captures just the right mood to fit the album’s aesthetic. It is slanky, lazy and cute thanks to cheap, lounge lizard-like keyboards and a second-hand disco beat that have fueled many a love session in a basement complete with shag carpet and a lava lamp on the bedside table. You can smell the pot wafting in the air and hear the creaking of the roommates’ feet on the ceiling as they scour the fridge for leftovers.
The second half of the album is where the past begins to repeat itself. Songs like “¿Whodunit?” and “Chasing My Tail” sit in the same haze as the first set of songs but are less memorable and begin to fade into the peripherals. “Head Out” adds some awkwardly sexy saxophone to its jazz-lounge shtick for a nice touch, though unfortunately the innovation doesn’t influence its peers close to it. Even if the songs stand out less as the album moves along, the feel of the album remains consistent. People fading in and out will be delighted to find they will feel like the songs continue on an infinite loop of relaxation. Just let the afternoon sun shine into your ears and press play on “Skiptracing.”