PREMIERE: Free Country – ‘The Life Of Riley’: wistful, essential lofi from his hometown basement

FREE COUNTRY is the indie pop project of LA’s Jason Ribadeneyra, a man with an ear for a wistful, low-key melody delivered with weary truth in his voice.

Tomorrow he releases his latest six-tracker, the introverted, pretty-as, guitar and piano indie pop stylings of The Life of Riley; but tomorrow, as Annie sings so famously, is always a day away, and today he’s unveiling the EP in full for you to stream here at Backseat Mafia. You’ll find it below. It’s gorgeous.

How gorgeous? Fair question. I’ll let you be the judge of that. But take a listen to the warm and synth swell-led yearn of first single “Narcan Summer” and fail to be seduced. It comes on like like a lachrymose Black Marble, and the sheer melodicism of those synths should remind you of OMD when they really had it (we’re talking Architecture & Morality era here – don’t for chrissake “Tesla Girls” @ me). The lofi rhythm is slow and measured. It’s a song to climb inside, eyes wide shut.

“Throw My Voice” is full of autumnal, rootsy harmonies; imagine Conor Oberst if he’d copped a little of that sat-next-to-you intimacy of early Iron & Wine. Think even, if you’re a C86 kid, Storyteller-era Razorcuts.

“Event Horizon” has the warm glimmer and apricity of an October day; the limitations of a basement eight-track set-up let the beauty of the songs shine (read more about this below).

That warmth continues in the cracked whisper of “And Suddenly We’re Gold” – a simple guitar arpeggio and distant piano with proper heartfelt, sleepy intimacy.

Jason takes a swerve into experimenta on “Mall Eyes”, on which the sparsest synth sweetness and drum machine underpin a cracked whisper; partway through voice samples kick in, the pace changes, synths slur and you find yourself out in the addled and hallucinatory pop of Animal Collective. “Maybe I’m just, fuckin’ up,” states Jason as the melody reasserts.

Closer “Life Is Whole” is an absolute doozy. Simple synths shudder, his acoustic guitar rings true on open chords. Oh, it’s all there below; take a listen.

The Life of Riley follows up 2018’s full-length cassette, Songs w/ Strings and was laid down in an interim period in Jason’s life, when he was moving from the East to the West Coast.

He reveals: “These songs were written and recorded in a short flash last summer while I spent a couple months living back in my hometown in Massachusetts after being in NYC for nine years.

“Being back in a place that holds so many incredible, but also terrible memories was definitely high weirdness, and what’s a better time to write songs than that!?

“I used what I had on hand, an eight-track cassette machine, acoustic guitar, and a Yamaha DX synth; and this is what resulted.

 “I chose a picture I found of my grandmother and me at a 4th of July picnic in Chicopee, MA in 1990 for the cover and just like the noise within, there’s no adulteration to the image.

From a basement in East Longmeadow, MA to you, here it is.”

Free Country’s The Life of Riley will be released by Eyes Closed tomorrow, September 18th, on digital and cassette formats; to get yourself some whispered, autumnal Free Country action, head over to Jason’s Bandcamp.

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  1. September 17, 2020

    This was such a killer review, I had to thank you personally. Thanks! -Jay R

    • September 18, 2020

      Pleasure to listen to, pleasure to write. Thanks man! – Chris

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