One of the most popular award winning bands in Wisconsin over the last few years has been The Mascot Theory. The two-time Madison Area Music Association (MAMA) Artist of the Year award winners have just released their 4th LP, Dawn And What Comes After with much fanfare. If you’ve never heard The Mascot Theory, their new album is a great place to start. The incredibly talented musicians have created a perfect blend of adult contemporary, pop, rock, and country. I would actually take the band to task on their self labeling of being an Americana, Folk Rock band. Their sound is so much more than that. The guys have found a way to truly merge the sounds of almost every popular genre of music into these beautifully crafted songs that any music lover can appreciate. The pop parts are never too poppy. The country parts are never too twangy. The folk parts are never too folky. The rock parts are never to rocky. They blend the sounds so effortlessly, you don’t even realize it. That takes special talent.
The album opens with a nice upbeat pop/rock song about a new love called “Awakened”, that will instantly remind you of classic 90’s acts like Toad the Wet Sprocket and Wisconsin’s very own BoDeans. A nice guitar riff, over acoustic chords, a catchy chorus with great backing vocals. The lyrics are so well written. When Erik Kjelland sings, “If I had the soul of a tortured singer, with overcast lyrics from the winter, I would rise no doubt, when the sun comes out, when your light comes shining through”, you can really feel that personal message he is trying to share.
The album doesn’t take long to show how diverse the band can be with their sound. The 2nd track, “Monster”, starts out with with that pop/folk rock/country feel, and after the first chorus, you get your first dose of the saxophone. After the second chorus, there is a guest appearance by Rob Dz, who raps over the sax and a clean guitar riff, It’s kinda awesome. And by kinda, I mean, totally. It just works.
The album really does have everything from full of fun, bouncy, danceable songs like “Every Chamber” and “Black T-Shirts”, country diddies like “I’m No Good”, “Coffee for Two”, and “Ashes to Bloom”, and adult contemporary songs like “Hold on to Me” and “Sky Upon Sky Upon Sky”. The album closes with “Unstick the Words”, which is one of those songs that really does mix the pop/country/rock sounds perfectly. It’s a song about being able to admit that you are in love. The song starts with a simple drum beat and the upright bass filling in the background as Kjelland sings about the experience of love, and posing the question, “For anyone else this would be love, how bout you?”. The second verse builds on the song with the addition of an acoustic guitar, and eventually a pedal steel and some strings. It’s a beautiful song progression that really shows off the band’s ability to arrange a song.
The Mascot Theory has put forth another exceptional effort that I’m sure will be in many Top Ten Lists. Erik Kjelland has the perfect voice for these songs, with his smooth and controlled tones. Nick Fry (upright bass, vocals), Paul Metz (drums, percussion, vocals), and Corey Matthew Hart (electric guitar, vocals) are all excellent musicians in their own right and are vital pieces to The Mascot Theory sound. The sound that breaks down genre walls and really appeals to the masses.