When I caught wind of Record Heat (previously known as Spirit Animal) recording their next album, I was immediately intrigued to see what this talented band would cook up. Welcome To Record Heat Country is a part-concept album about the wild west, part-Alt country much like classic rock bands like The Eagles, and part-rock and roll bliss. The band is comprised of lead vocalist Steve Cooper, lead guitarist Cal Stamp, and bassist Paul Michel, and their growth shown on this latest LP is pretty remarkable. Since the album came out in late September, to very little promotion, it’s been one of my “best-kept secrets” in the world of music. I often name-drop Record Heat to my friends looking for something unique in the music world, and this certainly fits the bill for creative music that is hard to describe without taking the time to absorb it after a few spins. Record Heat is what happens when you mix the rhythmic-rap driven Alternative Rock groove of Cake, the Country-tinged spirit of Fleetwood Mac, and the modern flair of The Struts.
”Keep it in Drive” kicks off this electric set of songs with a track about a “band on the run” navigating throughout the states on tour. The lyrics of, “Does anybody want to stop for coffee? / Swerving like a zombie,” invite the listener into the world of the band fighting off sleep at the wheel. The dual-meaning of a spaghetti-western stylized long journey of weary travelers paired with the reality of long drives to get their music heard come across as well thought out. “Eat You Up” is a more straight-forward rocker that relies on the crisp guitar-pop bliss of Cal Stamp paired with the anthemic vocals of Steve Cooper who commands the song, and never lets up.
The country-rap of “Rainy Day Fund” is simply playful, fun, and experimental music at its best. The harmonies from Stamp and Cooper are great on the chorus, and they showcase their growth as musicians and solidify their band chemistry. Other early standouts like “The Fire” find Cooper bellowing over a great bass line from Paul Michel that rocks like a Johnny Cash classic, with a modern twist to keep things ultra-interesting and engaging. The front half closes with the majestic storytelling of “Blind Hope and Blue Skies” that continues to display the magic that happens when Cal Stamp and Steve Cooper harmonize and come together in their writing styles. Cooper remains as captivating as ever on the verses, as the lyrical material covers the beauty of being on the road and seeing some of the most picturesque parts of the country.
My personal favorite in the set comes from the energetic song, “Run,” that is as fun as it is catchy. The chorus of, “Run, run when your hands are tied / Run when you sleep at night / Nothing ever lasts forever / Run, run when you can’t decide / Run when in you’re in the ride / Things get fast, and things get better” is well-constructed and made me fall in love with this album as a whole and get what the band were going for on this LP. One of the singles to be released from the set, “Amadeus,” is a campfire, rustic track that shows how Record Heat embraced the western films they were clearly influenced by on this album, and made a captivating record in turn.
”Starry Eyes” kicks off with a perfect guitar riff from Cal Stamp that helps set the tone for the rest of the track. The band adds in some banjo that spirals throughout the song and crescendos to the raucous chorus of, “Yeah, you’re so fucking fired! / Pack up your shit, and go retire / You’re such a cheater and a liar / I’m so fucking tired / Yeah, you’re so fucking fired!” It’s a classic marrying of styles similar to The Eagles with the brash, abrasiveness of punk bands like The Clash, and I’m 100% here for it. “Mellow On Out” closes out the lightning quick, nine-track LP with a mid-tempo rocker that you truly can put on in any mood, and your day will be better off for it.
Record Heat have made a quirky, yet utterly catchy album on Welcome to Record Heat Country. While casual listeners may not get what the band were going for here, I absolutely adore the stylistic choices the band went for on arguably the most unique album of 2023. Record Heat may be a “band on the run,” but in my eyes, they’re a band to watch with laser focus as this year comes to a close.