Monterey, CA native Carl Jordan is the man behind The Western States Motel. The name was originally created as a recording entity creating soundtracks for various projects, including a documentary on Johnny Cash’s 1968 concert at Folsom Prison. The band’s self-titled, self-released debut album came in 2007, followed by the EP Painted Birds Flying in the Orange Mirror Sun, in 2008. Both releases were made in true DIY fashion, recorded by Jordan at home in a spare bedroom. When performing live The Western States Motel enlists musicians Jesse Carmichael (drums), Jesse Taylor (bass), John Schreffler Jr. (guitar), and Brian Pearl (keyboards). The band’s second full-length release, 2011’s Freeway Freeway Riverbed picks up where the previous two releases left off, delivering the same indie pop sound with roots in folk.
A one-man band can sometimes be a stifling affair, perfect for exercises in musical navel-gazing. Not so with The Western States Motel, who come to us as a suggestion from our friends at Los Angeles' legendary venue, The Roxy. The creative outlet for Carl Jordan, the songs found on his three releases to date are expansive affairs. They look out over both the sprawling metropolis that makes up Jordan's hometown of Los Angeles and the surrounding ocean and desert with equal amounts of wonder.
Jordan's most recent effort, the self-released Freeway Freeway Riverbed, brings out even more of a far-reaching scope; musically, at least. The nine songs are positively overstuffed with instruments and incident. The sturdy and unnatural pulse of a drum machine takes a stately march through every song, with the borders dressed up by different touches of synthesizer, xylophone, toy piano, banjo, guitar, and Jordan's weary vocals.
This is a man who sounds like he's seen far too much in his short time on this planet. And while it exhausts him, he's still finding pleasure in the little things and small moments of joy that keep him going. This could be a love song that promises to wrap up all the celestial beings around us in a package for that special someone ("All The Stars"), an ode to the simple power of a piece of music ("Country & Western Song"), or comparing the design of a lovely lady with a piece of furniture ("Mid-Century Modern Chair").
Some have likened the band to another California-based outfit: Grandaddy. That makes a lot of sense considering that each outfit are pulling from similar influences: sunbaked '60s pop, epic rock from the '70s, and a bit of post-punk playfulness thrown in for good measure. That soupy combination has provided the perfect foundation on which Jordan is finding his perfect creative voice. Here's hoping he pulls the four gents that back him up live into the studio to make that voice louder, more lush, and more finely honed.