My introduction to Brooklyn singer/songwriter Josh Mease aka Lapland happened rather unsurprising from his likewise monikered Mike Savino aka Tall Tall Trees. Lapland's self titled debut is quite literally days old celebrating its release but a few short days ago at Mercury Lounge. Tall Tall Trees' first show in New York since embarking on a full US tour as Kishi Bashi's touring band, that alone was enough to draw my attention much less the praise Mease was receiving from other artists I dug. That was extra.
Lapland's music, specifically at first listen, is rather unlike what you'd expect from a singer/songwriter. Lyrics cast afloat upon billowing seas of dreamy textures, it seems hard to believe that everything you're hearing is almost solely the work of Mease and yet with the exception of the drums that's exactly what's happening. And while tracks like "Unwise","Memory", or "Soldier" could very well be the soundtrack of your actual dreams, Lapland benefits from a very real, human touch. Inspired by Mease' self-imposed isolation as well the kind of introspection required by most singer/songwriter to reach those interesting depths, it's Mease's silky, emotive vocals that push the songs forward; grappling them to earth when they might otherwise float away.
While at times it sounds a bit like Patrick Watson ("Aeroplane" and "Metal Lungs" in particular), for the most part, and even in the Watson-esque songs, Mease's sound is his own. Subtly shifting genres in a way that doesn't earn eyebrow raises or set the album on a far less cohesive course than it's released on. Amid Mease's dreamy folk stylings there's colorings of jazz despite Lapland's occasional electronic hum. Unsurprising considering that like Mike Savino, Mease is a jazz musician. But the more impressive feat is how all of Mease's various loves and influences are alchemized in not only an intriguing personal style but also one that manages to be remarkably understated. That's what makes Lapland an album worth mentioning, it's travels are bump-free and svelte; it's machinations as quietly life-affirming as Mease's whisper.