The new age to heartland rock
“What good is the future if you’re out of time? How did I avoid seeing the world is on fire?” are just two of the profound lyrics of the indie-folk duo, Radnor & Lee’s, album, Golden State. This alt-country record is enveloped by a majestic yet earthy artwork radiating Deadhead-esque vibes. While mostly colored brown with flecks of blue, the album artwork is highlighted by golden details of the magical sights along California’s coast, surrounding two men playing the guitar. The feet of these men become roots that are always planted in the terrain of the golden state. The album cover–and the track listing–does not forget Radnor’s home state of Ohio by including a song titled, “Ohio,” and a Ohio sign on the album cover, emphasizing how one can always have the sunny state of mind of being in California.
Musically, Radnor & Lee corner rhythmic twangs and harmonized, swirly voices. “Outside In” is an empowering song about learning to love yourself before you can love anyone else. This track has a strong bluegrass sound that is not shy to cadences, as the duo blends multiple octaves of the same notes in unison.
“Good Enough” is a romantic song of entreating endearment followed by an eddy thrum, when Radnor & Lee sing, “all I want to be is good enough, so won’t you tell me I’m good enough?” and, “you’re so much more than good enough for me.” Contrarily, “The Thing About Grief” is a quick, concise tune that clashes the lyrics of asking grief to end and hope to arrive with a sing-song, childish tune.
“Gimme Your Mess” is a country anthem with minimal instruments, other than a soft pluck of the guitar, hum of the harmonica and rhymical hand claps. The track is a simple and sweet song of sentiment, as Radnor & Lee enquire the partner to “gimme your mess, gimme your truth… you tell me yours, I’ll give you mine” in this loving vow.
“Why do I feel close to you and so far away?” is a somber lyric in the song, “Ohio.” This track struggles with long distances and heartbreak, as their layered emotional howls reach a multitude of harmonies and lilts. Radnor & Lee ask, “can my exit be a lesson?” before woefully ending with a lingering chant of the word, “Ohio.”
“Simple Harmony” brings a dystopian feel to the record, as it discusses the poignancy of being in the eye of the apocalypse. This track is comprehensively influenced by the Covid-19 outbreak and current global pandemic. Consequently, this song becomes the single-most politically active piece of Golden State.
Similarly, “Greene Street” is the most socially active track on this record. “Greene Street” is narrated by an observer that watches people that pass by on this street. The spectator has an epiphany, realizing there are a lot of emotions left unsaid in interpersonal relationships when he sings, its “quiet on Green Street, everyone is screaming” inside. This raw ballad addresses mental health and brings awareness to this social issue, all while musically switching from a slow, soft verse of storytelling to a strong belting chorus of angst and sorrow.
With a pulsing drum, maraca in hand, and a raspy wail, Golden State wrestles with the complex topics of genuine love, grief, and mental health. Artistically and musically profound, Radnor & Lee’s acoustic-heavy album brings a new age to heartland rock.