Poison Packets and Little Capsules: A Review

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Let me preface this review by saying that I am no musical expert. However, I do have ears and strong opinions, so take the following for what it is: the thoughts of an average music listener on an average musical album.

Poison Packets by Saul Conrad is a soothing mix of songs whose folksy guitar coupled with occasional jazz undertones creates a mellow set of tracks guaranteed to calm your nerves and send you into an all around chill state. The only criticism that I have is that, to my unrefined ears, many of the tracks sound very similar. However, the soft uniformity makes Poison Packets a great choice if you are looking for something to play in the background as you go about your day.

A few songs do stand out, such as “Whiskey Eggs,” which is more upbeat than the rest of the album and, prominently featuring the vocals of Katie Schecter, provides a nice break from the blend of folk, country, and jazz that characterizes the rest of the album. In sharp contrast to this upbeat folk rock number comes “Darkness” which sounds just as its name would imply. In “Darkness,” Conrad calls to mind the deep vocals and bluesy guitar of Johnny Cash. The overall effect is creepy, enhanced by Katie Schecter’s female vocals that chime in occasionally to contrast Conrad’s own decidedly low vocal styling. Conrad again tries to stray from the norm of the album in “Loopy Su,” but with less success. The repetition of the words “loopy su” is, for lack of a better word, annoying. Where it seems Conrad was going for a dreamy, ethereal chant instead comes off as high pitched warbling that makes me think more of a lethargic police siren than anything I would want to listen to in a song.

The overall effect of the album is dreamy. You can listen to all ten tracks in about twenty minutes, but that will be more than enough time to be lulled into a state of relaxation by Conrad’s voice. However, to take a deeper look into the music by considering the lyrics, a more complex side of Poison Packets is exposed. In a YouTube interview with Phil Lyon Conrad spoke to the emotions behind the lyrics of his songs:

“I am a very muddled vague person and most of what I am saying doesn’t make a lot of sense … I am trying to be open enough so people can take strong feelings and emotions that are very personal to me and interpret them in their own way. Like little capsules and you can fill them up with the structure of the song which can mean, every time you hear it, can mean something different, something personal to you.”

He referenced specifically “Bonfire Blues,” which is based off of his relationship with his girlfriend. He explained that the bonfires in the song that are “belching smoke and blowing fire” represented a time when the two were fighting a lot, but he also stressed that he wants others to find their own meaning in the lyrics of the song.[1]

To that end, Poison Packets is definitely worth listening to a few times to fully appreciate the poignant lyrics in addition to the unique musical aesthetics that dominate the album. While reminiscent of artists such as Mason Jennings and Elliott Smith, Saul Conrad has put together a completely unique set of songs that are undoubtedly his own.

 


[1]“Saul Conrad sings with his dinosaur Chico,” YouTube, (December 21, 2012). http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=kydIJs1gt0c

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