In his first solo record in over three years, Trey Anastasio captures a joyous spirit in his latest release Paper Wheels. Like many frontmen, Anastasio tries to maintain all the greatness in sound of his band Phish but also tries to stray a bit away from this to find his own. Although there are some great moments that might capture your attention, there are also some grey areas in terms of his lyrical content.
For the 51-year old rocker this album consists of several wannabe-throwback songs. They emulate this certain 70s groove that is still pretty familiar for everyone today. There is no shortage of head-bobbing bass lines that synch up perfectly with the drum’s hit hat. Far from being the type of artist that shies away from crazy good instrumental breaks, he generously spruces them throughout the album. He stops at nothing to ensure there is always some sort of groove to get you to want to dance. Songs like “Cartwheel” might not completely convince you to do cartwheels across the floor while you listen to it, but it will get pretty damn close to making you feel cheerful. Anastasio is good with creating encouraging and feel good, simple tunes that perhaps depict similar sentiments he might have as musician who has been fortunate enough to be in this industry longer than most of us have been alive.
Most memorable moments in the album are when Anastasio thinks outside box of what is expected. Tracks like “Bounce” can pretty much feel like every other song in the album until it speeds up half way through and creates this excitement you just want to dwell in. Like many songs off the album, it is playful and will absolutely have to include a sick guitar solo that is played with such ease. A song like “In Rounds” creates a completely different impression that makes it quite pleasant. Anastasio is clearly a man focused on the riff and groove of his songs that give it a purpose. Anyone looking to listen to jam session that probably goes on for way longer than it should will enjoy what Anastasio does with this particular track. What makes it enjoyable is the crazy keyboard solo that is just overall very cool and relaxed. Some of the least memorable parts are in tracks like “Never” in which lyrics can be a little dated with the choirs, as they sing along in harmony “lala,” which can be a bit too excessive at times.
Anastasio is the man with all the riffs and grooves that create the foundation of many of his songs on the album. It can be great at times but there other times when the listener might crave more substance to these grooves. But there is no denying that you’ll find one song you might catch yourself singing on one of your good days. Anastasio’s Paper Wheels is the feel good album to listen to for solid instrumental solos that will get you feeling the groove he has internalized throughout his career.
Key Tracks: “Invisable Knife,” “Paper Wheels,” “The Song”
Check out “The Song”: