Band – The 1984 Draft
Album / Label – Makes Good Choices
 / Poptek Records
Rating – 8 / 10

What do you get when you combine sensible pop hooks, wonderful melodies and a sound that harkens back to The Replacements, yet does not sound dated? You get drafted.

In a world full of music, standing out from the crowd is a feat in and of itself. The 1984 Draft are firing on all cylinders with the release of “Makes Good Choices”, their latest full-length LP on Poptek Records. The album was recorded and mixed by Pat Himes, whose credits include Ryan Adam’s legendary Heartbreaker album, during Summer 2017. It was mastered by Jake Bryant, formerly of Rise Records’ Dangerkids.

Hailing from Dayton, Ohio, the band is comprised of Joe Anderl (vocals/guitar), Justin Satinover (drums), Eli Alban (guitar) and Chip Heck (bass). They previously released their EP, “Bo Jackson Up The Middle” in 2014 via We Want Action, and their “Heisman Trophy Winner” EP via Gas Daddy Go! In 2015.

Jan Kawolski opens the album with a kid repeating the name “Jan Kawolski” over and over, before the band kicks in with an uptempo, hook-laden style that gets your toes tapping from the drop of the first note.

They keep the tempo upbeat with Lately, with a driving bass riff courtesy of Heck that’s punctuated with stabbing guitar flourishes. As you dive deeper into the tune, you’re left with Anderl lamenting the fact that he’s been hitting it too hard, wanting to turn the corner and be the best that’s left of himself.

The straight forward rock assault continues with Miss Ohio, with luscious melodies weaving their way throughout. It’s an infectious number that will quickly become your earworm with its chorus of “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, I hit the ground…” If any of the ten tracks on the album can be said to have that hallmark “Ohio” sound, this is the one.

Bubbling just below the surface of their rock sound, the band has a cerebral quality that cannot be ignored. That sentiment is on full display with Morrissey of Mandys, with its driving bass groove complimented by Satinover’s solid backbeat. There’s a melancholy vibe running through the tune that manages to not comes across as sappy. It leaves the listener wondering “what if?”

The 1984 Draft (Credit: Rachele Alban)

They slow the pace to mark the midpoint of the album with the sorrowful, yet heartfelt sound of Honest, a “thank you” to the band’s fans.

“I feel like every one of our record needs a thank you note,” said Anderl.  “When I sat down to write Honest I don’t think I was in the best head space.  It was a time of transition in my life — one of those why am I still doing this kind of moments.  For the better part of 20 years, music has been my passion.

“Over the years, music has brought a lot of really special people into my life.  The people who stand up front, smile, and sing along. The people who keep you going.  There are too many to count and list. They have shared encouraging words, hours in the car, nights at the bar, tears, joy, and a few Pabst Blue Ribbons along the way.

“If it wasn’t for them I don’t know if I’d be here right now.”

Wedding weaves almost serene sounding guitar licks through and around the dynamic, distortion-filled beat. You can feel Anderl’s pain as he exults the turning of a page, singing “Tomorrow, she will be my something more…” It’s a love song unlike so many others, with trappings of trepidation outshined by hope.

The pace comes back full force with Lutheran Heat, reminiscent of The Replacements or Hüsker Dü in their heyday. Once again, they channel some of the best “Indie” bands that came before them, while sounding fresh and new.

Red Dress is a non-syrupy love letter Anderl wrote about his former girlfriend, now wife.

Red Dress is about my wife,” said Anderl. “When I wrote this song, we had been dating for a few months and she was my date for one of my best friend’s weddings.

“I remember her showing up in this beautiful red dress. Up to this point, we had only seen each other dressed up for church and maybe a dinner date or two. This was our first wedding date, so I was absolutely floored when I saw her dressed ‘wedding fancy’. I knew I was falling head over heels at that point. I still get butterflies just thinking about that moment. I’m glad she ended up saying yes to me.”

Satinover’s subdued drum beat and Heck’s serene bass tone announce Megaphone in an understated, yet profound way. The listener is left wonder what problems Anderl is dealing with as he sings “Causing problems with a megaphone…” Is he lamenting a wild child-filled youth now that midlife is creeping up on him?

Closing out the album is the wonderful sound of Lisbon Falls. Its organ-filled opening notes would sound right at home in a cathedral, with the band’s lush harmonies filling every nook and cranny of its vaulted ceiling. The sonic wall of the band coming together almost overwhelms your senses with the rich texture of sound.

The production on “Makes Good Choices” is top-notch, with the band taking the listener on a wild journey of discovery that eases you back to earth gently with a soft landing.

The 1984 Draft invite you into their world and keep you interested with what is, at its essence, good music. This album would be at home in any record collection.

Tracklist

  1. Jan Kawolski
  2. Lately
  3. Miss Ohio
  4. Morrissey of Mandys
  5. Honest
  6. Wedding
  7. Lutheran Heat
  8. Red Dress
  9. Megaphone
  10. Lisbon Falls

The 1984 Draft – Miss Ohio