Though heâ€™s a twenty-something year-old from the small town of Mountain Home, Arkansas, Chase Paganâ€™s music sounds like it grew out of a man who has soaked in the spirit of a vast array of musical eras and subcultures. His new album, Bells & Whistles, channels everything from honky-tonk theatricality to the stripped-down intimacy of a folk troubadour to the visceral nature of independent rock music. Ultimately, itâ€™s Paganâ€™s unique and commanding voice that truly defines and distinguishes his music.
Whether itâ€™s a hushed croon, soaring falsetto, or another permutation, Paganâ€™s voice adapts as necessary to paint the pictures of his lyrics. Similarly, as an accomplished multi-instrumentalist he has a rich platter of sounds to call upon at any given moment. Pagan, who co-produced the album, plays the vast majority of instruments including piano, drums, bass, guitar, accordion, and banjo.
The juxtaposition of the first two tracks alone show off the albumâ€™s range. On the opening number â€œThe Lonely Life,â€ Pagan employs a ghostly coo over a two-step country groove to sing as a father communicating with his estranged son. â€œLife Gardenâ€ immediately follows with a contrasting palette of cabaret-like piano, marching band horns, and psychedelic guitar. Throughout the album, Pagan has a chameleon-like ability to embody various characters. This is most evident on â€œJohn and Betty,â€ where he writes from the perspective of prostitute-turned wife-to-be, â€˜Betty,â€™ as well as â€œDonâ€™t Be Gay (Working Title)â€ â€“ the tale of two parents and their contrasting reactions to their sonâ€™s burgeoning sexuality.
Whether he is singing with minimal accompaniment or engaging in vocal gymnastics over a large scope of sound, Pagan is perpetually earnest in his delivery. It is this steadfast sincerity, his decision to convey every note and every lyric with equal fervor, that makes it a pleasure to go on the album-long journey with him.