Album Review: Coupons – ‘Up & Up’
Posted: by The Editor
Perhaps it’s fitting that the first two song titles on Up & Up—the second full-length from Albany’s Coupons—reference the 90’s, Morrissey, and disco. The record takes you on a journey, hopping in and out of different decades and influences, making for a surprising mix of textures and sounds behind the affable slacker lyrics of Dan LaFave, Collin Reynolds, and Dan Maddalone. The band manages to hit a large range of reference points from the sunny, stoned 70’s vibes of The Kinks and dueling guitar solos of (dare I say it?) The Allman Brothers; to both the disco and Replacements-style grit of the 80’s; to Beck-esque 90’s lo-fi wordy folk; to the cinematic swells of 2000’s Bright Eyes; to shit that can only be described as “Coupons-esque.”
“90’s Kids” and “Moz Disco” kick off the record with catchy hooks and clever lyrics. In “90’s Kids,” LaFave intones “I just want to feel the best I ever have / Every single day.” It’s certainly tongue-in-cheek, but also serves as a good touchstone for the lyrical themes that go along with the genre-hopping music. The characters in the songs are at the stage between early adulthood freedom and the more sober realm of adulthood responsibility. That navigation brings out such straightforward, but ear-catching lyrics like “Never quit with the drinking / Never found a career / But you know I’ll never ask you / Where you’ll be in ten years” in “Expectations and Plans.”
Still on side one of the record, the group hits us with “I Wanted,” a riotous tune with a roaring guitar that matches the raspy Westerbergian howl of the vocals. It’s followed by “Curser,” a breezy acoustic tune that feels almost like Sky Blue Sky-era Wilco covering the Kinks. “Synesthesia” closes out side one with an extended jam over colorful textures that match the phenomenon referenced in the title.
“Comatose” stands out on side two as one of the catchiest songs on the album and another opportunity for ripping guitar solos. “Ansel” recalls the earnest electric troubadour sound of 1980’s Billy Bragg and sounds hugely cinematic for a song that is essentially just voice, one guitar, and a couple violins. “Don’t Let Me” uses a 70’s piano ballad as the background for such musings as “I can tell a lie if it’s for business / A condo barely lived in, / A hit piece in The Times” before growing into a slide guitar jam.
“The Beginning” stands out as a bit of an oddball song on the record. With it’s indie-folk vibes and off-the-wall lyrics like “Was he rollin, playin lead guitar / In Satan and the Satanettes,” the track does Blitzen Trapper better than Blitzen Trapper does Blitzen Trapper. It builds with greasy guitar licks and warm organ tones and the chorus “Maybe everything that happens / Is all inside our heads.” The organ continues on “Tongues,” a gospel rocker that finds LaFave putting on a Chris Farren-like croon.
The album closes with “Cars (Part 2),” a stream-of-conscious confession that wouldn’t sound out of place next to much of Cassadaga by Bright Eyes. Instruments are layered as the song goes on and LaFave muses “I’m blaming systems and apathy / I’m blaming our immoral economy / Coors Light and amphetamines / So I believe that it’s never been me.” As the tune fades out, don’t forget to stick around for a hidden track featuring existential musings on the longevity of the songs you just listened to.
On Up & Up, Coupons take on an audacious task of blending so many different influences, but they manage to pull it off while sounding completely natural. No style shifts are jarring, and instead the record almost plays like a mixtape of the band’s influences and an array of musical ideas that blend together perfectly for a fun, nostalgic, and reflective hour of listening.
Disappointing / Average/ Good / Great / Phenomenal
You can order Up & Up on the Counter Intuitive merch store.
Aaron Eisenreich | @slobboyreject
The Alternative is ad-free and 100% supported by our readers. If you’d like to help us produce more content and promote more great new music, please consider donating to our Patreon page, which also allows you to receive sweet perks like free albums and The Alternative merch.