As if KZUU did not have enough reason to love record label Tender Loving Empire, owner Jared Mees’ latest project reminds us why the Portland-based label will remain a favorite.
Only Good Thoughts Can Stay, the sophomore album from “Jared Mees and the Grown Children,” is filled with the childlike optimism, ecstatic choruses, and clap-driven beats that are becoming popular in the shaping Portland scene.
On “W.W.J.B.D.,” Mees begs “why can’t music always be this pure?” a statement that illustrates the album perfectly. Rooted in indie-rock, but laced with country-folk, Only Good Thoughts Can Stay is driven by Mees’ band of bards. His voice soars high with a sort of quailing quality, and the instrumentals carry you through the album like a marching band, with a focus on trumpets, cymbals and an upbeat piano. A palm muted Gibson guitar underlays every track with chord progressions evocative of the classic punk-rock Mees says played a heavy influence in his songwriting.
But to be clear, this is not a punk album. Punk themes of skepticism and the counter-culture face off with notions of childhood friendship and love that are almost too cute for their own good. The power chord influence translates into a “folk-riot” sound, evocative of artists such as The Films or Family of the Year.
There isn’t much variety here, but rather a consistent feeling of both joy and anxiety that bridges each track. His lyrics are memorable, quickly turning every song into a sing-along for listeners. This is most visible on the closing track “Shake,” where a repetitious chorus reminds listeners of those old pre-school hymns, and layers that feeling beneath a heavy array of trumpets, snare drums and harmonies. “Holy hallelujah, I’m losing hold,” Mees proclaims on “Juicy Fruit,” lamenting the cynical reality that comes with adulthood.
A warm yet distant charm that comes with the innocence and naivety of childhood composes the golden heart of Only Good Thoughts Can Stay; recognizing the value of youth and mourning its swift passing in life. It may not be an album for children, but it will, if only for a brief moment, make you feel like one.