Slept-on Songs: Discover the other favorites
Welcome to Sleep-on Songs. In this column you will find recommendations of songs and artists that you have never heard of but that you will definitely like. Whether it’s music released by an unknown artist last week or underrated songs from major artists that have gone under your radar, this series will ensure you have your weekly fix of fresh indie music.
It was a Saturday afternoon in 2016, and the YouTube algorithm had recently discovered that I was a newbie guitarist trying to learn something new. Outside of the multitude of tutorials for “Sweet Child O Mine”, I found a rather messy vignette of a student playing guitar with the title “Sultans Of Swing – Dire Straits (Josh Turner Cover)”. The video was unlike any other cover I had ever seen; there was no presentation, no conversation, no plea to subscribe – just music. The clip began, as did the song, featuring a 20-year-old in a quarter-zip and bed hair, playing a lovely guitar in a messy dormitory. I was won over by the ease with which he released the music. And while I still can’t perform as well as he could five years ago, I’m still a fan of him and his music. This is how the Internet introduced me to Josh Turner.
I met Turner through his music tutorials. It started with me watching his covers of songs by The Beatles, Frankie Valli or gypsy jazz interpretations of standards like “All of Me”. But I soon found out that Turner was making his own music, especially through his indie-folk duo, The Other Favorites, with his partner Carson McKee. In 2017, Turner and McKee released the EP “Fools”, and it quickly became the home of some of my favorite songs to date. The entire EP is a perfect combination of guitars, banjos and sweet vocal harmonies, representing the talent and passion for the art they create.
“Fools” opens with “The Levee,” and you are invited to a new world evoking the nostalgia for the memories Turner and McKee create for you. With its short verse, the song quickly shifts to its catchy and powerful hook. On the one hand, the guitar serves as a support, giving the song its rhythm and percussion and giving the track constant movement. On the other side you have the banjo which gives the track a pretty complicated and dynamic feel. These instruments, paired with the song’s vocals, perfectly convey the feeling of seeing someone you love sink into an unfounded relationship.
“The Levee” is one strong song among many; every song on this EP is unique and embraces you with its warmth and inviting presence. Take the third song on the record, “Angelina”. The long, smooth vocal phrases and heartwarming guitar chords of the song will make you want to spend hours staring out the window with the music on repeat. In the end, it’s the guitar solo that steals the show in “Angelina”. It might be nostalgia speaking, but listening to this exquisite solo brings me back to that first YouTube tutorial with Turner teaching me “Sultans of Swing,” making every guitar stroke so smooth and easy. Promised, this solo will take you on an exploration of the world of Turner, with its hills of silky arpeggios and its field of sweet intervals.
The record is a striking achievement, especially since all the songs use at most two instruments. There are hidden gems of sweet melodies in every song if you look hard enough. A perfect example of this is the fourth song on this EP, “Flawed Recording”. I recommend watching the song’s video for a visual element. The clip cuts between the track’s first recording session in 2007 and a much older iteration. This video creates a special connection between the viewer and the performers, showing the audience how much the couple have grown in their musical abilities over the years. McKee’s rustic vocals paired with Turner’s false and lush harmonies make this an unforgettable experience. While many musicians try to soften the falsetto vocals in mixes, giving them a background presence, The Other Favorites deviates from the expected by leaning on their simplicity and giving us the vocals of the two singers under the same spotlight.
This EP is almost its own person, a friend you don’t meet often but spend hours listening to their stories when you do. Each phrase, whether produced by the mouth or the guitar, is as moving as the next. Mckee and Turner’s duo work flawlessly, both complementing each other while giving the other space to shine. And while I hate YouTube on some days for recommending distracting videos to me when I have an assignment due within the hour, I’m so glad its algorithm led me to the microcosm of The Other Favorites.