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Rickolus - Coyote and Mule - Album Review

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By: Brandon Backhaus
Rickolus, Coyote and Mule, Album Review, Circle Into Square
Album Rating:
8

Rickolus, you skinny bastard. I hate you. Just when I feel like I've completely come to terms with memories, or completely repressed them, you have to release this brilliantly written, low-fi agglomeration. Rickolus is adept at uncorking my bottleneck and letting the retrospection pour like boxed wine. Coyote and Mule is best listened to curled up and nostalgic for 7/11 parking lots, sitting atop an empty playground with nothing to do but laugh with friends like you'll never have again, smoking pot in the park for the first time out of an RC cola can, and destination-less bike rides. Hand in hand with that nostalgia is the un-idealized truth: the alcoholism, the bullying, the slow-descent from good kid to heartless delinquent, the disappointment, the longing to belong, the heartbreak, embarrassment, and confusion. It's what makes Rickolus one of my favorite artists – he weaves a tapestry of honesty that forces me to reflect, have insights, epiphanies. It isn't all how bad everything is, or some Wonder Years-ian portrayal, but somewhere in the middle, somewhere I've been, somewhere I continue to end up. We all do.

Coyote and Mule? The trickster and the hardhead? The cunning and the stubborn? Apparently it's a reference to Richard Colado and his wife. It makes you wonder though, who's the coyote and who is the mule? Either way I don't think it's a pick-up line I'll be using anytime soon, but it does lend itself to being some kind of inside joke, a highly-personal reference to be appreciated. Honestly, I can see Rickolus as either. First off, cunning – self-produced, Circle into Square recording artist, touring musician, contributions to Astronautalis' This is Our Science. Does that sound like a married man to you? It must take some coyote-like wile to be able to balance the two. I couldn't. Second, the mule – tenacious, the ability to carry heavy burdens across long distance and precarious inclines, patient, sure-footed, hardy. This sounds more like the characteristics of an independent recording artist like Rickolus, a grinder of an artist who has worked his way from a shed in his parent's backyard to Ceschi label-mate and touring companion. So, coyote or mule? You be the judge.

Coyote and Mule is a cohesive release of indie folk rock, but in this post-genre era in which we find ourselves, it's almost unnecessary to define. I only include that very broad, and insufficient description so you can set your sails in the right direction. Little samples and skits inhabit the slight spaces between infectious riffs, playful piano plunking, and introspective lyrics. The whole record has this self-deprecating innocence to it that is as refreshing as it is endearing. There is talk of a 4-track cassette recorder and I believe it. The whole release has this gritty sheen that only contributes to its sounding like it could have been released in the early nineties, while I was trying to French kiss the neighbor girl during games of Truth or Dare. Like Coyote and Mule, games of 13-year olds playing Truth or Dare in the backyard pretty much sums up the beauty and confusion it all.

Out of Jacksonville, Florida and alongside artists like Bluebird, Astronautalis, and Radical Face, Rickolus is carving out a niche, a sound all his own, a pixilated soundtrack to scrambled porn channels and stealing your mom's Benson and Hedges. Yet, I think that is where the comparison stops. If I were in film or television production, I'd find this music irresistible for a show about yesteryear, but alas this is music unmistakably for today! It's new and refreshing. It's like an old recipe made with fresh ingredients. Keen songwriting and passionate instrumentation have always resulted in deliciousness, but Rickolus brings his own brand of seasoning to the table. A classic updated to perfection.

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