Just a little over a year ago, local axeman Jonathan Pretus stepped off the Cowboy Mouth tour bus for the last time after frantically traveling the country with the over-the-top southern rockers since 2007. The decision came after Pretus reunited with his college buddy and former bandmate Stephen Turner for a few months of clandestine jam sessions, sessions he found more musically rewarding than the time he spent on the road. Almost immediately, Pretus and Turner began the process of writing and refining the songs that would become Eudaemonia, both men’s return to original, collaborative songwriting.
The album operates ostensibly and most obviously as The Breton Sound‘s attempt to perfect a studio fidelity seemingly out of the reach of your average under-budgeted local band – and overwhelmingly, Pretus and Turner succeed in their goal. Through the one-two power pop punch of “No More Worries” and “Crisis or Carnival” – rife with multi-layered acoustic and electric guitars, revelrous vocal harmonies and shimmering stereo percussion – producer Tom Drummond comes about as close to perfecting that trademark Mark Trombino touch as anyone in the last decade, and the swirling instrumental fireworks that swell effortlessly from the songs’ softer, more metered passages show off an impressive dynamism that harkens back to Hoist-and-Rift-era Phish.
The album’s power-pop exterior continually belies an entire host of disparate influences, with odes to aggro-punk, modern AOR rock, and heavy metal. The EP’s longest track, “Lines” – which clocks in at almost 8 minutes – finds Pretus guiding the listener through a series of progressive piano-planted suites threaded over a nimble Built To Spill guitar backdrop before Turner and bassist Jason Navo join in for a spellbinding, anthematic Superdrag-meets-Porcupine Tree apogee.
Through it all, the diverse set of songs on Eudaemonia are lush and refreshing departures from the trendy dependence on lo-fi sonic artifacts to provide a particular piece of music all it’s tension and intrigue; and earnest and considerate songwriting prevent this slickly produced EP from suffering the opposite fate of being weighed down by studio gloss.