Rickolus, otherwise known as Richard Colado, has a way of filling out fragile folk melodies with bittersweet bravado, so that verses murmur and harmonica-and-accordion-stuffed choruses soar. His “9th Street to San Pablo” expands from a plaintive acoustic guitar song, into a marching band’s bluster, then flowers into vocal profusion at its extremity, sounding very much like Neutral Milk Hotel’s “King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1”
Indeed the shadow of Jeff Magnum hangs over Troubadour: Roads, in the jaunty surreality of its lyrics, as well as the major-to-minor-shaded melodies. There is even a burst into lo-fi rock exuberance a la “Holland, 1945” late in the album with “We Paint the Rocks Gold.” Both NMH and Rickolus have the trick of sounding absolutely natural — and also absolutely strange — at the same moment.
Yet Troubadour: Roads balances its oddity with sweetness, surreality with kitchen-sink specificity. The entire album was written about Colado’s love for his wife, and those sentiments are filtered through a photo album’s worth of fleeting images, they still ground the songs in authentic feeling. “Where are you going with my eyes?” asks the hapless “Lonely Fox” who has glimpsed his beloved for the first time, swimming. “She said, ‘Nowhere, you know it wouldn’t bother me if you came.’” It’s an Aesop’s fable and an episode of How I Met Your Mother and a shared memory all together, balanced precariously on the edge of art and what really happened.
There is, apparently, another set of Troubadour songs that are more electronic and which, perhaps, sound less like In An Aeroplane Over the Sea (I only got the acoustic ones). Yet even as these songs swell in memory-triggering whimsy or familiar rustic waltzes, they make their own case. I like the album both for what it reminds me of and what it is in itself. Really, I wish more artists reminded me of Neutral Milk Hotel — and that more could make these influences their own as Rickolus does.
DOWNLOAD: “The Lonely Fox,” “9th Street to San Pablo”