The Phone Calls is a ten song invitation to hear one of the most difficult things you can try to do in music done really well; it’s a mezmerizing tour through the art of writing and making a great instrumental song. The Phone Calls is the debut album by the band of the same name, a project put together by producer (and guitarist) Dan Agosto, and although Agosto mixes and produces in genres from metal to EDM to soundtrack, he’s actually a guitar player before anything else. That has everything to do with why the ten songs on The Phone Calls can cover such a wide range of emotion and still play flawlessly together as an album. The whole idea is that the guitar is the voice of the song, and one of the reasons why a guitar, at least in the hands of somebody like Agosto, can be so effective as a melody lead is that it can say something just a little different each time you hear it.
“Guitar is my favorite instrument to play,” Agosto says, “and it’s easy for me to get simple ideas from inside my head onto a recording. From there anything is possible.” The Phone Calls is a record of surf-guitar feelings and sounds, although from the first two tracks, both raging surf jams, the album travels through a thoughtful series of variations in mood and texture. “The idea for The Phone Calls is that the guitar is the lead instrument,” Agosto explains, “Surf is definitely a style that lends itself to playing melodies on the guitar, especially on the lower strings. The distortion and echo effects that come to mind when I think of the sound of surf allow you to play things that can fill the space a vocalist would. It’s a sound that was born from the instrument and just works.”
It works in a lot of very different ways, too. Agosto, along with drummer Scott Key, and on several of the tunes, bass player Brad Smith, cover a lot of musical ground. Agosto describes the way that the album moves from it’s opening tracks, “Shore Pigs” and “Sweet Reef”, through the magical melody of “Sun Drenched Sky”, and then to deeper, and often more mood-driven territory: “There were some songs that I demoed that had a more classic surf vibe that ended up not on the album, for one reason or another, and I felt like I wanted to at least kick it off with a couple of fun tracks that let the listener know where this is all coming from, before going somewhere less familiar,” he says, describing how he mapped out the album. “Most of the songs are very laid back though, and only related to surf rock through instrumentation, and perhaps they all kind of make me think of the ocean.”
It seems somehow more that just right that the music everyone calls Surf came out of a world where balance — shifting, changing, fearless balance while you ride on a crashing mountain of water — is the heart of the art. This record lets you ride it all the way, balancing a carefully thought-out inspiration with a pure sense of wonder that’s free from any need for thought. In The Phone Calls, musicianship and enjoyment reflect eachother, shimmering like sunlight on the water, sometimes as quiet as the first light of dawn, sometimes as bright as a bonfire on the beach. Be careful though; if you listen to this over and over you won’t get tired, but you might get lost. Even if you started playing this record at the very beginning of the summer, you still might forget when it was time to go back to school.
The Phone Calls will be available just about everywhere on May 24th, just in time for Summer. (iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, Last.fm, Spotify, rDio, Cricket — just about everywhere)