“Buena Vista Concrete Jesus.” Say that a few times fast and you’re pretty much ready to sing along to the first track on the self-titled debut from Nature Boy Explorer. It sounds ridiculous, mostly because it is. But once you hear it, filtered through the harmonies of Mark Snyder (guitars/vocals), Becky Brown (harp/vocals), and Natasha Smoot (accordion) it takes on the life of a catchy indie-rock refrain. That line, and perhaps the dreamy harp accompanying it, will become the soundtrack to your waking life, drawing stares as you mumble it under your breath, trying to excise that odd, catchy stone savior from your brain.
Enough with your personal problems. Unfortunately, that same song causes problems for its compatriots. Everything else seems, well . . . normal. The aptly titled “Ambulant” is a jaunty, delicate, heart-on-the sleeve tune that could fit on almost any indie-pop album regardless of the band. It’s the track where the harp adds the most, but somehow fails to stand out.
“Fine” is an exercise in the effective use of dueling accordion and harp. It’s a slow jam where the guitar drones while the other instruments help create some character. The accordion seems to exude a bit of its own raw, forlorn emotion, but it’s mostly Snyder’s voice and his guitar. The harp is nearly hidden–trying to pick it out almost becomes a distraction.
The closer of this four-track EP is the hard-to-define and awkwardly titled “Republican Rape Train,” a song with dissonance at its core. The verses are driven by chunky bass and discordant keyboards with haunting, accusatory lyrics. In contrast, the chorus is almost happy-go-lucky (though obviously a bit tongue-in-cheek) while singing about the eponymous train.
Overall, these four tracks give a great example of what Nature Boy Explorer is. It might still be difficult to understand the music, and even harder to explain it to a friend but it will be clearer. They’re definitely doing something different from most any other band, especially any band around Fredericksburg, and if anything, it’s worth giving the album a listen to be able to sing along at a live show, which is where Nature Boy Explorer really shines.