There’s a reason the freshman effort by singer/songwriter Evan Rasch is titled Sophomore. (He’s soon to be a sophomore music major at Kenyon College.) There’s also a reason what would seem to be the title track is spelled differently, as “Sophmore.” (His girlfriend’s name is Sophie.) It’s also worth noting that the set’s producer, Andrew Brassell, is the songwriting partner of the set’s executive producer, Susanna Hoffs, who released Sophomore on her Baroque Folk label.
Okay, with that housekeeping out of the way, let’s dig into the music of this Sophomore.
For a 19-year-old, Rasch knows how to craft a pop song. While these five gems stand firmly on their own merit, they also make a definite promise for more good things to come. Just the opening drive of “1000 Hurts” forecasts that much. But then the harmony-laden chorus arrives and it’s impossible not to bop right along with the kid — even though he maybe shouldn’t be singing “Pour me a drink and make it stout.” At least not for a couple more years.
Listening to “1000 Hurts” and “Lazy Love,” it’s hard not to hear some throw-back influences from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. But jump forward to “Elevator,” and the breezy, here-and-now vibe is far more reminiscent of the Decemberists than the Beatles or Squeeze. That credit is due to the vocal timbre of and interplay with Molly Gordon, as much as it is the soundscape Brassell creates for them.
Clocking in at 5:27, “Sophmore” feels somewhat epic compared to the four other tightly packaged tunes. Again, the airy aural ambiance assembled by Brassell and Rasch echoes productions way past, as in psychedelic pop past. It doesn’t hurt that Hoffs lends her best airy background harmonies to the piece or that there’s a trippy, fuzzed-out guitar solo filling the last 90 seconds. It’s a cool cut, no way around it.
Closing out the EP, “The Reporter” similarly refuses to settle for standard acoustic ballad status. Though they let an acoustic guitar lead the way, the guys also fill out the background with intriguing, almost dissonant sounds that make it anything but the same old song.
All told, Sophomore is a solid debut for a singer/songwriter of any age. Here’s hoping Rasch keeps at it.
This article originally appeared on No Depression.