Joe Pug – The Flood in Color (EP)
Nation of Heat Records
– out July 19
3.5 / 5
For ten years we’ve been following the Dylanesque folk stirrings of Greenbelt, MD singer/songwriter Joe Pug. His 2009 debut EP Nation of Heat is eternally on our playlist, sporting some of the most dense lyrics since Wilco’s 2002 masterpiece Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. On The Flood in Color, Pug returns to his acoustic sentiment and leaves aside the electric guitar. His revisit to the Nation of Heat aesthetic, strumming quiet, understated melodies hooked to stories of the human experience, is a welcome and comfortable space for Pug to inhabit.
Pug’s lyrics are what we most look forward to, but The Flood in Color here comes short. Lyrically, this EP is more straightforward than the brilliant, unpolished gems in Pug’s early discography. Pug is best at his most cryptic, crafting memorable lyrics through his first two EPs. But what we find perplexing is that two of his melodies are borrowed. “The Stranger I’ve Been” closely resembles The Low Anthems “Apothecary Love,” which borrows its sound from a traditional type of waltz. More problematic, however, is “Empty Hands and Broad Shoulders” – a melodic descendant of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Kathy’s Song.” The closeness of both these songs to familiar melodies (especially Simon and Garfunkel’s) might betray an exhaustion in his songwriting process. Frustrating, especially from an otherwise brilliant songwriter.
Overall, The Flood in Color gets some things right (complex human experiences) and other things are off (lyrics, a couple melodies). We strongly recommend his previous discography, including 2012’s The Great Despiser, as The Flood in Color isn’t quite up to par with this brilliant songwriter’s own standard. Nonetheless, it is strong enough to be recommended.
Check out Pug’s website.