As always, Angus Stone revels in a psychedelic haze on Dope Lemon’s fantastic new offering, the epicly-named Smooth Big Cat. And as always, I’m more than happy to just be along for the absentminded ride. Like only the best tripped out music, one doesn’t actually need to be on psychedelics in order to connect with it, and I wasn’t even stoned when this record reached out to me from the dusted outer realms, beckoning me to follow.

“Don’t need to worry you got this now/No need to worry.”

Sung in a lush cadence, it is soothing yet strangely queasy verses such as these, like a soft knock upon a nervous door, that lift the record from the indie ghetto and into the hippie optimist heights. This type of peaceful queasy feeling music is generally looked down upon in these days of minutely mass panic, but you get the sense this guy wouldn’t even be aware of such cultural negativity or notice it if it fell from the sky and hit him in the head. An outrider of his own wave, lobbying charming promises. “We can go anywhere you want to go, baby. Let’s just roll” The George Glass of lost gentlemen sweethearts with a guitar on his back.

I came on board with the Dope Lemon after hearing “Where Do You Go” which turns out to be one of Stone’s heavier-leaning tracks complete with brooding lyrical musings and light but ominous brush strokes. And yet there was an alien beam of weird optimism peaking through the outer edges of the song that intrigued  “We gonna be alright now. Look my baby” And while lots of songwriters have attempted to reach for the sublime through the mundane very few  can reach the Evan Dando “Stove”-level, though Stone comes very close with lyrics about fumbled keys and lost household items. I am therefore delighted to report that this latest offering punts up more of the same, and this time with a sunshiny, feel-good groove that just doesn’t let up for the record’s run time.

Amidst the baked mannerisms and hippy dippy laments, Angus Stone is clearly a polished musician, bringing in a pantheon of unlikely instruments, Brian Jones style, that you wouldn;t think would work on a song and yet, well, they absolutely do. Just like the late Sir Jones’ marimba line on “Under My Thumb”,  we have bongos (always a dangerous choice, but they more than work here), strings on happy tracks (ever notice that people don’t break out the strings for anything other than sad folkie shit these days?), and a clearly out-of-tune bass which cuts in on half the tracks and somehow syncs in. The keys on “Where Do Yu Go” are particularly spine tingling. One doesn’t necessarily need to sound hella’ ambitions to be a multi-instrumentalist, and Stone never comes off like he’s flexing his skills on his listeners. Any piece of instrumentation does just enough to serve the song.

Like a lost FM classic from the Age Of Aquarius, this record just rains sunny LA velvet pants warmth and benevolence. With pleasingly psychotic cover art and barely moving videos filled with color and foxes and felines, Smooth Big Cat is a rare commodity in 2019: A unique and trend-dodging work of art basking in the strange contours of its own reality.

 

Tina Romano