Duncan Fellows: The Sadlands (Self-Released) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, October 29th, 2020  

Duncan Fellows

The Sadlands


Oct 16, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Austin’s Duncan Fellows have been kicking around and have remained unsigned going on seven years now. With a handful of EP’s and a 2017 full-length, Both Sides of the Ceiling, it was never quite certain if the quintet was gaining traction or at risk of disappearing into the mists. Last year brought a further EP, that while solid, felt like they were keeping their options open and a few chips on the table. So with little fanfare, it was somewhat surprising to see another full-length album, The Sadlands, coming down the pike. 

The Cullen Trevino and Colin Harman led band benefits from alternating leads on vocals and guitar. Their sound is further fleshed out by Jack Malonis’ work on keys, which is especially prominent here. The group’s prior album made for a promising debut, but The Sadlands has a more focused approach. The album’s title refers to a spot where bad thoughts are banished, so the opening salvo on “Tube Today”—“We’re all gonna die, my darlin’”—makes perfect sense.  The first few songs peddle in gritty pop and meandering melodies, but the album starts to branch out when the chorus hits on “Losing Your Fire.” The song opens with Beatles-esque wilting harmonies and finds a self-empowering pulse and mantra—“pick it off the pavement.”  

Not to harp on The Beatles’ influence, but if the group has a favorite of the four members, John Lennon’s ghost steps to the fore on the next two songs. The grungy guitar screamer of “Feeling Down” bears more than a little resemblance to a similarly named song, but the following “H.A.G.S.” makes for the centerpiece of the album and a fitting tribute. The track is aglow in a soft psychedelic swirl and contends with the mental gymnastics of not stepping on each other’s toes—“we dance around each other to survive.” 

The back half of the album continues in strength. The anthemic builds and gentle glides of “Like I Used To” points to the band’s dynamic see-saw approach and would make for a great set opener. While the simply titled “Car Song” smolders with emotion. The band has benefitted from a loyal regional fanbase and The Sadlands should cast that net wider if it gets the appropriate attention.  More importantly though, coming out with another full-length seems to point to the Fellows leaving their doubts behind and pressing forward. (www.duncanfellows.com)      

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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