CD review: Coastwest Unrest’s ‘High Times on Lowly Streets’

The local band's evolved sound is full of warmth and energy on High Times on Lowly Streets.

The Details

Coastwest Unrest
High Times on Lowly Streets
Three stars

In some ways, Coastwest Unrest seems to have aged in reverse. The locals emerged in 2009 with their slow, weathered debut, Songs From the Desert, followed up a year later with Old Weird America, a slightly more polished, much more aggressive and equally ominous record that injected a bit of punk pugnacity into their old-soul folk roots.

Coastwest’s third LP moves to a sound full of warmth and energy, layered with an optimism typically reserved for a band’s salad days. The shift isn’t totally surprising, considering Coastwest had Battle Born Studios at its disposal this time, along with the hand of Killers engineer Robert Root and the softer nuances of cellist Zoë Kohen Ley. The record shines with confidence, cementing Coastwest Unrest as a band that’s here to stay.

Coastwest seems so eager to present its evolved self, however, it sometimes feels like a detriment to the album’s pacing, with variations on the same up-tempo string flourishes carrying frontman Noah Dickie’s brooding baritone from one track to another. At times, the richness of his voice and its observant storytelling seems like the only thing keeping the band from flying into Lumineers/Mumford territory.  So while the enhanced production is to Coastwest’s benefit, it shouldn’t mean smoothing over all the rough-hewn edges that made the band distinctive in the past.

Moments, like the slow-burning “Lost & Damned,” get that right, and hint that with the right choices there could be more to look forward to as Coastwest Unrest’s sound continues evolving.

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