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Album review: 'Polka Dot Swing'



"Polka Dot Swing"


On his new solo album, "Polka Dot Swing," Ryan "Yarms" Yarmel comes across less as a singer-songwriter and more as a straight-up storyteller. And that's a good thing. Rather than cling to the conventions of indie folk, Yarmel reaches back into the archives of American music, drawing from jazz, blues, and Americana. The 10-song album is about as unadorned as they come, with Yarmel accompanying himself with guitar and little else. Whispers of additional instrumentation add intrigue, but it's his earnest voice that holds your attention.

One of the best things about this record is that Yarmel isn't afraid to get raw musically, consistently valuing expressive mood over technical proficiency. The track "64" is particularly no-frills, propelled by a wonderfully messy, full-on strum. "Their Ghosts" combines grungy folk and garage rock with twangy country flourishes, bringing The Killers' "Sam's Town" era to mind.

Highlights include the beautifully lonely "Prince," the edgy folk-rock crooner "1863," and "I Luv You All the Way" — one of the best songs I've heard in a long time. Fans of quirky contemporary folk artists like Sam Amidon, David Karsten Daniels, and Holy Sheboygan! will find a lot to love on the fascinating "Polka Dot Waltz."