Foreign Affairs is the latest album by Columbus, Ohio’s CONNECTIONS. It’s a record that basks in the warm fuzzy glow of 1990’s lo-fi indie rock. For men of a certain age, like myself, it’s an approach that creates a certain kind of nostalgic buzz. It’s a sound as reliable as the battered 8-track cassette recorder that the band probably tracked this album on.
The group’s anachronistic approach is not a surprise given some members of the group’s prior associations. Singer Kevin Elliott and guitarist Andy Hampel’s prior band, 84 Nash, served the rare distinction of being the only non-GBV associated act on Robert Pollard’s long lived, and still active Rockathon Records label. I first was hipped to these guys about 5 years back around the time of their fantastic debut Private Airplane that was released on legendary Ohio imprint Anyway Records. Save for a few singles released around the time of that album’s release, this is my first time checking in with the band since then. Label press tells me this is album #5. There must be something in that Ohio drinking water that makes all these guys so damn prolific. This is the band’s first album recorded for the Trouble In Mind label which seems like a perfect fit based on their current roster of modern indie guitar and various neo-psych wunderkinds.
Foreign Affairs is a record that traffics in a direct lyrical approach that seem to dwell on human connection, various romantic entanglements, and a life spent in an underground rock band. Beneath the veneer of tape hiss, and the spare production value, there is a depth that is revealed with repeated listening. “Purely Physical” for example captures a classic rock vibe with a sound that has more in common with mid-70’s Dylan than Bee Thousand. Hampel and Elliott’s lyrics do a great job of creating miniature snapshots of life that capture the small, yet significant life moments. Whether it’s the pleasures of a day spent kicking around on “Ballad of Big,” the missed opportunities of the paths in life not taken on “Something Else,” or the emotional fallout of a break up on “Misunderstanding.” With Foreign Affairs, the group has put together a solid set of earnest songs that aren’t afraid of wearing their hearts on their sleeves.
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