When I last chatted with co-lead vocalist and band founder Zach Lupetin regarding Dustbowl Revival’s latest record, Is It You, Is It Me, you could hear the excitement in his voice in the new direction the band was taking on this album. Lupetin’s enthusiasm and confidence is warranted, as Dustbowl Revival have created a record that marks the next adventurous step in their evolution as artists. Produced by Sam Kassirer (Lake Street Dive, Josh Ritter) Is It You, Is It Me is a sonic expansion on what Dustbowl Revival are capable of making when they set no limitations on themselves, and ignore any preconceived notions on what their band is expected to sound like. The band sounds re-focused, refreshed, and ready to conquer new audiences on this brilliant new album.
Leading off the set with the shiny “Dreaming,” it becomes evident early on that the band was unafraid to take some calculated risks on revamping their sound. Filled with backing horns, and well-placed string arrangements, the song quickly soars to the heights intended with ease. Lupetin sings confidently on the chorus, “Somebody tell me that I’m dreaming / And this feeling ain’t going to last.” Whether the vocalist is alluding to his new-found optimism towards the band’s direction or the feeling of being grateful to do this for a living, it comes across as genuine.
“Enemy” follows the great opener with co-lead vocalist Liz Beebe taking the reins on the vocals for a song that reminded me a bit of early Fitz and the Tantrums with a mix of the pop bliss of Lake Street Dive. The song alludes to the relationship between a daughter and her parents that appears rocky at best due to the generational differences of seeing her parents vote in a leader filled with terrible qualities.
“Sonic Boom” sets the record back on the road to optimism as Lupetin sings about a relationship of longing, “Every time you walk in the room / You hit me like a sonic boom.” Lupetin’s encouragement to this person to continue to be a part of his life is very heartfelt, and he leaves his heart on his sleeve for all to see.
The tender moments found on songs such as “I Wake Up” feature both vocalists at their best, and they play off of each other’s strengths beautifully, with lush harmonies and carefully strummed acoustic guitars to make for another early album standout. For a record that is filled with so many noteworthy moments, it’s hard to find a section of the album that lacks any of the momentum gained in the early songs. “Mirror” is an example of Dustbowl Revival honing in on their earlier roots of telling compelling stories through their music. If nothing else, songs like this serve as a reminder that the band is still the same group of individuals long-time fans fell in love with; they are just taking their evolution to the next level.
Other songs on the back half of the record, such as the horn-infused “Runaway,” showcase a band willing to expand upon their earlier work by adding in fresh elements to their sound. By the time you get to the album closer, “Let It Go,” the 13-track, 58-minute record never feels rushed, and it’s hard not to feel the same optimism that the band has for their new direction on Is It You, Is It Me. The album serves as a great reminder of the ability for bands to experiment with their sound and change their overall course of expectations for what they feel their band is or could be. Many lessons can be learned from this experience, and I’m all here for it.