Rocketship Park. Bryan Bruchman
Whoever said Americana had to come from the heartland? Brooklyn-based Rocketship Park, headed by the talented (yet unassuming) lead singer and instrumentalist Josh Kaufman, fleshes out smooth, folky songs about life and loss, family and friendship, while harnessing a simple, seemingly effortless beauty. The group's debut record, Off & Away, offers a sense of peace and nostalgia that grounds even the most anxious of listeners.
Off & Away plays like a comfortable living room jam session, which isn't too far from the truth. Kaufman originally played every instrument and recorded many of the record's soft, acoustic, feel-good sing-alongs and catchy folk-pop ballads himself for what was to be an obsessively overdubbed solo album. Ultimately, though, he wound up inviting long-time friends to record the album with him live as Rocketship Park. The result is an organic sound that thrives on group performance. "Why?" Kaufman asks, "Because it's fun and we like each others company."
"Run Away," easily the album's catchiest track, features an eclectic arrangement including pump organ, glockenspiel, coronet and trombone surrounding Kaufman's signature twangy croon. The short and sweet two-minute pop song showcases the band's ability to craft musically unique tracks that sport catchy melodies and strong lyrics, while still showing off the band's relaxed approach.
The cast has played together for years, and their success, Kaufman says, comes because they all happen to be "unpretentious and extremely talented." The band consists of five members at its core, but Off & Away features work by many in the band's "extended family," including piano work from Rob Burger (Calexico), percussion from Bryan Devendorf (The National) and violin help from Karen Waltuch (Wilco).
Touring is off the table for now, with the group's members working on separate projects. However, the songs for Rocketship Park's next album are already written, with studio time to be found when its members aren't busy with other acts.
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