Review Summary: Room 41 weaves through dark psychedelic soundscapes and nearly pastoral country tinged indie folk without leaning too far in either direction all the while maintaining a clear artistic persona.
Room 41 is an exercise in bold arrangement techniques and cleanly executed songwriting. It manages to tell old stories with fresh voice while contributing unexpected moments to a heavily trodden style of country music. The record weaves through dark psychedelic soundscapes and nearly pastoral country tinged indie folk without leaning too far in either direction all the while maintaining a clear artistic persona. While at times these shifts are unwarranted the record manages to strike enough of a balance to make an excellent record.
The album is produced immaculately. Each instrument is constantly in its right place allowing the tracks to breathe and pulse organically which heightens the psychedelic dynamism throbbing through the record. The sound reflects very deliberate choices in both instrument voicing and production techniques that bring the record into dank jukebox driven bar spaces and starlit fields belting out to the sky. Arrangement choices are both bold an rewarding on all accounts. Far-out synth voices shift throughout the music by way of either laser beam solos on Can't Be Alone or synth bass lines that support entire verses on Freaks and even brings in a flanged-out saxophone solo.
One of the records greatest strengths is how it manages to let the most shining element of the music, Paul Cauthen's voice, take the back seat to the band. This further allows the record to beat and breathe as it needs to create memorable atmospheres that distinguish one track from another. To take this further the vocal delivery is constantly interesting in itself. Cauthen never overdoes his performance which allows for truly dynamic moments to hit home with the maximum potential.
Room 41 shows you what it is offering in the first two tracks without giving you the whole pie. Holy Ghost Fire starts you off in a dark bar and Prayed For Rain takes you to the next afternoon to reflect on your actions. The record does this sort of two step dance throughout, which might be its biggest weakness, but doesn't stop the manic highs stealing the spotlights. To be clear Prayed for Rain takes the record into an unanticipated direction. Early on Holy Ghost Fire drowns the listener in midnight psychedelia and doesn't show signs of repent only to bounce into what comes across as an indie folk ballad voiced by a cross between Waylon and Orbison. To its saving grace Cauthen doesn't abandon the stylistic choices in the ballad tracks across the album which makes it easy enough to pick up on that it shows how seriously versatile he is.
The high point on the record is no doubt Cocaine Country Dancing. Smooth, funky, vibrantly psychedelic country music. This is what the record is all about. Cauthen's voice carries heaps of attitude in the delivery and while it doesn't show off his full vocal capacity like other career standouts, such as 'Saddle', he does just enough for the listener to know he means business.
The record suffers most when it bounces stylistically. It goes from debaucherous drug fueled dancing to uplifting hopeful moments. While these clearly show two sides of the artist the album could easily be cleaned up by a few shifts in the track list. Can't Be Alone is the first track that felt like it fit between the two lanes he seemed to split earlier in the record. It lacks the dark psychedelic ear candy that the listener learns to crave but the arrangement utilizes enough unique voicing that it stays interesting.
In conclusion the highs Room 41 has to offer far outweigh the negative aspects the tonal shifts bring about. Both songwriting and production stand at great heights while the deliberately psychedelic and dynamic arrangement choices separate Paul Cauthen from the majority of his peers. Room 41 could be improved by nixing Cauthen's tendency to fall back on his indie folk leanings however his ability to dress up these outliers with the same treatment as his standouts allows the record to steep in its own spoils.