Though presented against a backdrop as vibrant as the summer sun can be, the vocal harmony in “Be Where,” one of the new songs on Wastelander’s What is Left of Me LP, is as much of a sonic centerpiece as listeners could have hoped for in this latest release from the acclaimed indie singer/songwriter Cooper Formant, and truth be told, it tends to be the cornerstone component of every powerful moment this album’s dozen tracks have to offer us. Formant isn’t holding anything back from us in What is Left of Me; in fact, I think he’s gone further out on a limb poetically than any of us could have expected him to.
Lyrically speaking, I think “Broken Leg” and “Room Full of Elephants” are two of the more stirring tunes I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing out of the American underground in the last couple of months, and both tracks could certainly serve Formant’s brand well as singles. There’s a personal investment from this artist in every stitch of audio that he sticks his name on, and in songs like these, it becomes all the more difficult for even the harshest of critics to deny his authenticity as a composer and singer.
The instrumental definition in the bucolic “Caduceus,” humble title cut and unsophisticated but alluring “Get it Right” is more than enough to convince me that What is Left of Me is among the more well-constructed LPs you’re going to find on this end of the dial this season, but beyond that, I think the entirety of this master mix was crafted with a particular attention to detail you just can’t find in straight pop music anymore. Formant is committed to tonality over all else, and if that wasn’t obvious before, it’s made clear to us here.
I would love to hear what the quartet of “Never Trust a Man,” “I Just Want to Be Your Friend,” “Figure it Out” and “Natural Light” sound like when Wastelander is performing them on stage, if for no other reason than to see their sonic sensibilities take shape in a way that would only be possible before a live audience. There’s so much vitality to each of these four songs, and my gut tells me that in person, they probably boast even more of a punch than they do in the setting that we find them in on this disc.
I wasn’t very familiar with the music of Wastelander before getting a copy of What is Left of Me for myself at the behest of other Cooper Formant disciples, but now that I’ve become exposed to its treasure chest of textured and tonality, it’s hard for me to imagine this being the last time I give this project a close inspection. Formant is one of the few true singer/songwriters carrying on the mantle of the folk-rock legends, but for as indebted to the icons of yore as his aesthetics are, his latest album plays out like just the refreshing kind of listen that we all needed this year.